Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Cho: How'd He Get Into Virginia Tech?

Readers keep asking: If it's so hard to get into good colleges such as Virginia Tech, how did Seung-Hui Cho win admission?

Surely, his teacher recommendations could not have been stellar, even if they didn't spell out the extent of his personality defects. Surely his own essay must have revealed at least some of the disturbing thinking that permeates his creative writing assignments in college. No matter how good his test scores may have been--and how could he have earned top-notch grades if he never once spoke in class?--how could admissions officers have overlooked what must have been a paper record that reflected at least some of his overall picture?

Virginia Tech is a very large university, the biggest in the state, but it is also selective: It admits about 12,600 of the 19,000 high school seniors who apply each year. About 5,000 of those admitted students end up enrolling at VT. The academic achievement level of incoming Virginia Tech students is about mid-range, with the largest group by far showing SAT scores betwee 1200 and 1299. More than three times as many VT students come in with scores in the 1200s as in the 1400-plus range.

The university says it seeks students with at least a B+ average. Here's the school's profile of the average freshman and his grades and test scores:

Average GPA: 3.80 Mid-50% GPA*: 3.54-4.01

Average SAT: 1231
Mid-50% SAT**: 1130-1330

(The SAT scores reflect the critical reading and math sections of the exam only.)

Virginia Tech makes its admission decisions purely and entirely on the basis of those numbers. Its application includes no requirement for interviews or teacher recommendations. (The University of Virginia, in contrast, requires both a written recommendation from a high school teacher or counselor and student-written essays.) The form that guidance counselors must submit to Virginia Tech asks for name, rank and number of advanced courses that the high school offers, but there is no question and not even a space for counselors to comment on a student's character, achievements, deficits or any other aspect of the application. If Cho had decent scores and grades, he was in.

(By comparison, another large state school, Penn State, also does not ask for teacher recommendations, but does require a short essay. The question there this year reads like this:

"Please choose one of the commitments that you listed above (activity, interest, or work experience) and provide a short description of its importance to you. Include why that commitment could be relevant to your student experience at Penn State.")

(About 300 colleges use the Common Application, which includes an essay question. For this year's selection of questions, see the jump.)

The Virginia Tech application does ask whether students have been a class officer and inquires about school organizations students may have participated in. There's a question about whether kids took part in sports in high school. But the personal statement, a crucial part of applications at most smaller schools and even some very big ones, is optional on the Virginia Tech application. Even then, it is limited to 200 words and is unusually rudimentary in scope:

You may respond to both statements (or one or neither) as you feel they support your individual application. Please limit your statement to no more than 200 words in length.

Applicants who do provide a statement must choose one of these questions:

* Virginia Tech is committed to providing the benefits of an educational environment rich in individual backgrounds, experiences, and characteristics. What contributions might you as a student bring to help create a diverse educational community at Virginia Tech?
* If there is something you think would be beneficial for the Admissions Committee to know as we review your academic history, please take this opportunity to explain.

There are a few questions that all applicants must answer, but they are simple Yes/No items asking whether the student has ever been suspended, expelled, placed on academic probation or convicted of a crime.

Virginia Tech's own list of what it looks at in an applicant goes like this:

Many factors are considered, the most important being strength of schedule, high school GPA, and standardized test scores. Other factors include:

* Ethnicity
* First-generation
* Leadership and service
* Legacy
* Major requested
* Participation in Virginia Tech pipeline programs
* Personal statements
* Residency

As a first-generation Korean-American and Virginia resident, Cho had a couple of advantages right out of the gate. We haven't seen his grades and scores yet, but it's easy to imagine that he tested well, given that his sister got into Princeton and his family placed an enormous value on education.

So add this to the long list of questions about how Seung Cho got to do what he did: Why does one of Virginia's premier state colleges not spend the marginal extra money it would take to hire a few more admissions officers so that it can use a more probing application and seek teacher recommendations and personal essays to get a fuller picture of the students it is admitting? There are, luckily, only a tiny number of Seung Chos in any applicant pool, but every student is more than the numbers provided by SAT scores and GPA rankings. Any college, no matter its size, ought to want to see other facets of its applicants' lives.

From the Common Application, used by about 300 colleges across the country:

Choose one topic and write an essay:
1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
6. Topic of your choice.

By Marc Fisher |  April 23, 2007; 7:17 AM ET
Previous: Fenty's First 100 Days: Can He Top This? | Next: The Hains Point Hand: Stealing Away A Public Treasure


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Man, they've lightened up since back in tha day (1971). I had to write an essay and IIRC had to get a teacher and a non-academic recommendation. My grades were OK but my SAT was smokin' for back then, 1240, Verbal 680, Math 560.

Posted by: Stick | April 23, 2007 7:52 AM

If his sister got into Princeton then some combination of parents and high school guidance counselers (motivated to get students into the best colleges) made sure the right boxes got checked. He was in the science club at Westfield, probably tested well and got good grades, and even with additional admissions officers would probably have no problems getting in.

Look, all the right steps were taken in line with trying to avail the best educational opportunities to everybody regardless of race/creed/color/etc. We err to the side of mainstreaming handicapped folks. We abhor locking up people unless they demonstrate violence. VT took him out of the classroom and provided 1 on 1 instruction. An official with the power of coerced treatment reviewed his case and concluded that incarceration was not called for.

What more could've been done without fundamentally limiting access? Is that what we want?

Posted by: Rob Iola | April 23, 2007 7:55 AM

Cho could have downloaded a mainstream essay.

Posted by: anon | April 23, 2007 8:03 AM

Va Tech is not the biggest school in the commonwealth - that would be George Mason.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 8:09 AM

I applied back in 1998, and got in (Class of '99). Even back then we had to do essays. I submitted my application in November of '98 and had heard back by the end of December. By comparison, JMU took much longer, and I didn't hear from them until April. They also had an essay requirement, and maybe even recommendations.

I ended up going to JMU. Not because of the application process, I just liked it better there.

Posted by: P | April 23, 2007 8:10 AM

Mr. Fisher is not an expert on college admission or psychology so he should keep his mouth shut. Why does The Washington Post let this man blather on and on?

Posted by: J | April 23, 2007 8:11 AM

VT is like many schools at every level in this country especially at the college level. Education should be just that - education. Unfortunatele, the schools care more about their profits than they do about teaching their students to be better adults. I have witnessed on several occasions my high school alma mater in Tampa (Tampa Preparatory) the administration ignore problems whether it was drugs or a pedophile teacher to say to prospective students, "We have no drug problem here..." That would explain why from 1992 to 1993 Tampa Prep had 3 students blow their brains out after partying. Just this year Tampa Prep suspended a swim coach after catching him filming the girls locker room in March. They didn't call the police and he wasn't fired until 7 months later when a PARENT contacted the police. By the way, it is a 1st degree felony in Florida to NOT report sexual abuse if you are an educator. This is how these schools operate; and while VT's administration did NOT pull the trigger, they should've have done what all these schools are aftraid to do - worry about the students best interests and not theirs. The blood is on their hands just as much as his. It costs an average of 25k-40k to send your kid to college at an out of state school. I think for that much money, the students deserve better. But this is how everything in this country has become. Watch people die that didn't have to, have a national day of mourning, let the politicians rape the event like 9/11, and nothing changes and we repeat the actions when it happens again.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. For you school administrators out there, who cares if you get sued, get the Cho's some help. Otherwise, you're worse than the Chos of this world because YOU SAW IT COMING AND CHOSE TO NOT GET SUED. I'm pretty sure it will turn out to be 32 wrongful death lawsuits in the lng run. Since, the bottom line is all you care about - that should motivate you guys to change. And you call yourselves "educators".

Posted by: Eric | April 23, 2007 8:18 AM

Wow, this article is pointless. They guy was unstable and snapped. It doesn't mean that he wasn't intelligent, or should not have been admitted initially. If Universities and Colleges start weeding out every young adult that doesn't fit a picture perfect profile, their enrollments will drop significantly. What happened was tragic, but trying to find someone, anyone to place the blame on is pointless.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 8:20 AM

I find today's blog disturbingly Nancy Grace-ish. You have, without any evidence such a Cho's high school records or college application, proceeded to find VT guilty of negligently admitting a madman. First, how do you know that his personality didn't change dramatically AFTER he went to Tech? Shouldn't a quiet, introverted kid have the right to attend an excellent school? Second, you assume that an additional essay or more probing assessments by an admissions counselor would have been able to weed out someone who would become a homicidal mainiac 5 years later. Mental health professionals are often unable to predict aberrant behavior 24 hours in the future, much less years in advance.

The real problem here is a mental health system that is grossly underfunded and is hamstrung by too many rules that keep people who need involuntary care from getting it.

Posted by: WA2CHI | April 23, 2007 8:24 AM

Everyone must understand that VT did what it could for Cho within legal boundries for his own mental health issues, and that the other students protection would not have been furthered by Cho's expulsion. Remember with the open nature of our university campuses, the story could have read "ex-student" murders others on VT campus.

Posted by: Tom | April 23, 2007 8:24 AM

Re: above statement on relative size of schools. Va Tech has 22,000 undergraduates and Mason has 18,000, but Mason has more graduate and continuing students, so the overall university total is slightly higher there. I think the undergraduate population, because it is the core of the in-residence, full-time student body, is the salient number, but they're awfully close no matter how you look at it.

Posted by: Fisher | April 23, 2007 8:26 AM

Forget how he got in; how the flip did he STAY in? All through undergrad and graduate school, 12 years apart, anywhere from 40-60 percent of my grade in class was class participation.

Posted by: Stick | April 23, 2007 8:35 AM

Has anybody considered he may have been a transfer student? SAT's don't always matter at that point and all he would have needed is passing grades at a Community College.

Posted by: SoMD | April 23, 2007 8:41 AM

if cho had been required to write a personal statement, i doubt it would have said, "i am an extremely disturbed individual who is likely to murder his classmates in a sudden rampage. and i'd like to major in english."

Posted by: mai-linh | April 23, 2007 8:44 AM

So now the complaint is about VT's admission standards?

OK, let's tighten them up. Let's tighten up the standards of all universities.

Then we can look forward to the next Marc Fisher column where he complains about all those kids left behind because they can't get a college education. Heck, he might even throw in a euphemism like "inner city youth" or something like that.

Posted by: Goaltender66 | April 23, 2007 8:46 AM

"...anywhere from 40-60 percent of my grade in class was class participation."

Yes, and I believe that if Cho had wanted to be a business major, that is precisely why he switched to English - business courses after the introductory level require a very high level of group work/class participation.

I believe the article is pointless as it applies to Cho. He would have gotten into college somewhere. Had Cho been denied admission completely to a university of his choice, his rampage would have occured at a workplace, a community college, or even his old high school.

Posted by: Thomas | April 23, 2007 8:49 AM

Who exactly do you think you are and what gives you the right to be attacking the university like this? Surely you were not preaching this before the shootings. The guy was psychotic. Insane. We learn and move on. Your article would be more appreciated if you did not waste our time with your accusatory tone. Suggestions for improvement are always welcome, but enough with the accusations.

Posted by: Arlington | April 23, 2007 8:57 AM

We don't know exactly why Virginia Tech let Cho in, but we do know that he was not a US citizen, and that he likely took a spot that would have otherwise gone to a US citizen.

Posted by: Roger T | April 23, 2007 9:04 AM

"As a first-generation Korean-American and Virginia resident, Cho had a couple of advantages right out of the gate."

Being a Virginia resident would be an advantage, but "first generation" in college admissions refers to being the first in one's family to go to college (and not being the first to immigrate ). Plus, being Korean American is no more advantageous than being European American/white in the admissions game.

Posted by: reader | April 23, 2007 9:09 AM

Rofl. Guess you can add another subject to the list of faux expertise you pretend to have.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 9:09 AM

English classes, like business, also require an enormous amount of participation. And from reading "McBeef" (I was only disturbed by the horrible writing), I'm wondering how he stayed in the department. I would have been flunking out of my literature studies with bad writing and zero class participation.

Posted by: NoVA | April 23, 2007 9:09 AM

HAH. The majority of these comments are way better than the narrow minded and short sighted article. Wash Post should get them on their payroll.

Posted by: 4cryingOL | April 23, 2007 9:10 AM

So let me understand this. You don't know his grades, You don't know his SAT scores and you don't know if he wrote a personal statement. So the value of this article is what?

Posted by: Greg K | April 23, 2007 9:13 AM

The only advantage to being a resident of Virginia is the lower tuition. It has nothing to do with intelligence. The second, being an immigrant, really frosts my shorts because there are thousands of Americans who would love the opportunity to go to college but can't because we're giving everything to immigrants on a silver platter.

Furthermore, isn't there some kind of personal interview you have to go through to enter college. Surely it isn't all done by paperwork. Don't people have to show up in person to register? When I was going to AU (working two jobs 7 days a week, thank you, I'm an American) you had to register in person, then meet with advisors, not to mention taking part in class discussions. So don't badmouth Va Tech's admission policy. The guy was a nut, clear and simple.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 9:15 AM

Marc Fisher--I have asked you several times in email and in these comments to stop commenting on matters that you have no expertise in, which judging by your writings, are most topics. By your own admission, you don't even know how to buy shoelaces, man.

Get a grip, look yourself in the mirror, and admit that you are a moron.

The ONLY reason I refuse to pay for this paper is because of its poor judgment in keeping you on its payroll. It looks like I will have to write several more letters recommending your termination. Thank you for providing me so many outstanding examples of your incompetence.

Maybe you should start a DC radio nostalgia society and leave grown-up issues to the adults.

Posted by: bkp | April 23, 2007 9:18 AM

Cho's problem was the Korean American community. They encourage success but do nothing for those in trouble. They encourage their children to be engineers and scientist but not English majors. Reading between the lines his father was a failure in the yes of the Centerville Korean American community which is very active and very discriminating. Their stores in centerville cater only to Koreans and not the rest of the community.
And what about CHo's parnets could they have put too much pressure on him to meet the norms of Korean AmMerican young males etc. I see this pressure with a friend of mine hwo puts an inordinate amount of pressure on her son. Damn the kid hasnt been arrested and they dont get calls from the hospital it is a good weekend. Sorry the Centerville Korean American community is at fault. As is his family and his sister!

Posted by: Fred | April 23, 2007 9:19 AM

There is something really arrogant about assuming that you will screen out mentally disturbed people with a more selective admissions process.

With the proliferation of admissions consulting services, along with savvy parents, I'm sure anyone who has the resources -- intellectual or financial -- could beat the system.

Even a one-on-one interview would not necessarily eliminate a person like Cho from consideration.

Posted by: Kate | April 23, 2007 9:19 AM

Here we go, the 20/20 know-it-alls just cannot leave it alone. Surely everyoe had to see the sign Cho had on his forehead that said "I am crazy". Give it a rest.

Posted by: Tired of it | April 23, 2007 9:21 AM

This article is just pointless...The Kid Snapped, and it dosent have anything thing to do with his SAT scores or how he got in.

Posted by: GCT | April 23, 2007 9:26 AM

I understand some of the anti-Marc sentiment in the discusssion, but to be perfectly honest, this was my first question when I heard that it was a student.

And to respond to GCT, the point is that he did not just "snap." This was a trainwreck a long time coming.

Posted by: Paul | April 23, 2007 9:32 AM

The largest university in Virginia is VCU (30,000+), which surpassed George Mason (29,000+) last year. Tech is third (28,000+), I believe.

One would think that a paper such as the WP would have a fact-checker or two.

Posted by: Todd | April 23, 2007 9:33 AM

I thought I saw Cho's age posted as 23. That's 5 or even 6 years out of high school. Most universities have a back door to admissions that is seldom discussed. Usually there is no "test" for admission to night classes or continuing education classes for credit other than a high school transcript showing graduation or even a GED certificate. Once you take a couple of classes usually there is nothing preventing a "part timer" from signing up for a full schedule of day classes avoiding the SAT, essay, interview, business altogether. Of course the student is not associated with a "class of xx" but usually they don't care. In a commuting university of that size there is probably no expulsion for failing either. Just keep registering and paying is all you have to do.

Posted by: Vins Nash | April 23, 2007 9:36 AM

"Why does one of Virginia's premiere state colleges not spend the marginal extra money it would take to hire a few more admissions officers so that it can use a more probing application and seek teacher recommendations and personal essays to get a fuller picture of the students it is admitting?"

This is absolutely a fair question to ask, and many people have already begun talking about this. Sorry if it hits a nerve, Hokies, but this is a relevant issue... unless you believe that VPI bears no culpability whatsoever. (Maybe it's only a tiny bit, but it is beyond naive to think that the university shoulders none of the blame here.)

Posted by: dsbaf | April 23, 2007 9:36 AM

By Mark Fisher's reasoning, UVA, George Mason, and hundreds of schools around the country have been effective in screening out mass murderers. Remarkably, even the many colleges and universities that admit every applicant have managed to accomplish this. Obviously, predicting rare events like this is virtually predicting airplane crashes or earthquakes...even when experts with mountains of data are making the predictions. Oh, I forgot, this is America so we have to blame someone. Maybe we should appoint Mr. Fisher "Blamer-in-chief."

Posted by: Scott Lucas | April 23, 2007 9:49 AM

Spent extra dollars on mental health, not college admission administration. No matter if Seung-Hui Cho is at a university or not, he would still be suffering in ways most people cannot comprehend. He would still be a danger to others and himself. And thanks to all media for showing Seung-Hui Cho's tapes and writings. The public needs to see and read first hand to begin to understand how much pain and danger he was in. Hope for change in the future. My heart is bleeding for all the victims, including Seung-Hui Cho.

Posted by: Manassas | April 23, 2007 9:52 AM

Let's not blame a college application system that has to deal with thousands of applicants. If that system were perfect, no one would ever flunk out or even go on academic probation. Besides, it's characteristic of school shooters that they take considerable pride in their ability to fool people who represent institutions.
What about Cho's parents? Surely they knew that there was something wrong with their son; accounts say that they never spoke of him.

Posted by: gmu grad | April 23, 2007 9:55 AM

It wasn't enough to blame the police, the University, his parents, etc. for failing to prevent this inhuman act - it's now the fault of the admissions office, for not somehow detecting potential psychopathy in their applicants? Mr. Fisher, you are way out of line on this one. If we're going to hold anyone responsible for these deaths, it should be the person who actually pulled the trigger: Mr. Cho.

Had he been denied admission to Tech, I can only assume that he would have taken his violent tendencies to JMU, Mason, or similar.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 9:56 AM

"You have, without any evidence such a Cho's high school records or college application, proceeded to find VT guilty of negligently admitting a madman."

The problem is, VT did in fact admit a madman. It's fair to ask how that happened, and what can be done to avoid it happening again. Yes, Mr. Cho's mental state could have deteriorated significantly after he was admitted. And no, we do not know (certainly not yet, at least) if an essay, or teacher recommendations, or interviews, or anything else Mr. Fisher suggests would have worked to keep him out of VT.

But it is clear that there were warning signs that Mr. Cho was seriously disturbed well before he went on his rampage. We're not blaming VT's admission department to look back and try to learn how to prevent this sort of tragedy. And one lesson seems pretty clear - colleges and universities should look at more than raw intelligence and academic scores.

And it's a total red herring to ask "[s]houldn't a quiet, introverted kid have the right to attend an excellent school?" The concern here isn't about someone who's reserved, but someone who's mentally unbalanced. There is a difference.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 9:57 AM

A play that Cho wrote, besides being violent and wierd, exhibited poor grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. I realize English was his second language, but how could he be a senior ENGLISH MAJOR in apparently good academic standing at a major university without being able to speak the language? Was VT about to grant this guy a degree? If so, why?

Posted by: SCK | April 23, 2007 9:57 AM

Mr. Fisher,

What's the point of this article? Are you saying that if he had not gotten into VT, he would have gone to another school and done the same thing? This article is pointless and waste of everyone's time.

How did you get your job at Washington Post?

Posted by: Spencer | April 23, 2007 9:58 AM

My son had a fairly high SAT, 3.5+ GPA, won academic awards and sports awards, was in clubs, was a good citizen-no discipline ever, participated in church activities, etc. Most importantly, HE WAS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!!!! (Our family working hard in America for over 290 years!!!) They let Cho in and turned my son down....what a country!!!!

Posted by: Jas. | April 23, 2007 9:59 AM

Some of the comments on this page express anger at Mr. Fisher for wondering how Cho got into Va Tech. If you ask me, Fisher didn't go back far enough. If Cho never spoke in school, how did he get promoted out of first grade? Second grade? Third grade? Did ALL of his teachers "look the other way"? For twelve years? Incredible.

Posted by: diane | April 23, 2007 10:00 AM

I suspect in this case the term Korean-American may be a misnomer, since the Chos are all resident aliens and remain Korean citizens. Being a Virginia resident has an effect on more than tuition. The in-state admissions are set by the legislature at 65 percent, out-of-state 35 percent. When my daughter applied to VaTech and UVA in 2002, the difference in the application process was striking. Tech`s application did not require much beyond a transcript and SATs, UVAs was much more extensive. Cho`s silence in class was noticed by other students all the way back to middle school, this problem has been on the way a long time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 10:03 AM

Oh, I get it, keeping as many people as possible out of college is now a GOOD thing. My mistake.

Posted by: BP Beckley | April 23, 2007 10:04 AM

A better screening process may have kept Mr. Cho out of Virginia Tech. So instead, he very likely would have carried out his rampage at a school with less rigorous admissions requirements. And even if all schools screened him out, there is no reason to presume that his rampage would not have occurred somewhere.

Posted by: Greg | April 23, 2007 10:08 AM

Wait a minute, what the heck does a citizenship got to do with the admission process? Are you a bigot?

Posted by: Spencer | April 23, 2007 10:08 AM

Spencer, you must be kidding! Americans should be admitted before aliens. No bigotry, just the right thing to do!. Do you think an American would be admitted before a Korean is S. Korea???? I think NOT!!!!

Posted by: Jas. | April 23, 2007 10:12 AM

I wouldn`t read too much into Cho`s age. His family moved here when he was eight and his language skills may have slowed his progress in school early on.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 10:12 AM

Why all the Fisher hate today? There's nothing "pointless" about this article. For crying out loud, Cho was a 23-year-old who couldn't write, didn't talk, creeped everyone out, had a prior history of mental disturbance and even had some ex-classmates who thought he might go on a shooting rampage, yet somehow Virginia Tech kept him enrolled as an English major. You mean to say you never once asked yourself "how'd he get in, anyway?"

Posted by: Andy | April 23, 2007 10:16 AM

Jas, America is a country of immigrants. You did say your family immigrated 290 years ago, right? Remember, you were once an alien too. Think, before you say something.

Posted by: Spencer | April 23, 2007 10:17 AM

This article is worse than pointless, it's offensive. If Cho had been kept out of college, he may still have gone on a rampage elsewhere. This article suggests that were he went on his rampage and who he killed is important, as if some lives are more valuable than others and some peoples feelings of being secure are more imporant than others. The media has already celebrated the lives of the Tech students far more than anyone who died in Iraq in the last week. No offense intended to the victims of this tragedy, but the media has completely lost perspective and this article is one more aggregious example!

Posted by: ch | April 23, 2007 10:21 AM

Mr. Fisher, usually I enjoy your columns and agree with you on many topics. I have to say today that you were reaching and off base. I'd almost think you had nothing else to write about today. You have nothing to base your writing on other than the admission requirements, which can be found on the website. You don't have the killer's grades, application, hs grades, recommendations, NOTHING. My brother's went to Westfield and if their college application process is anything like Centreville's then the killer was required to submit an essay and recommendations, even if the school didn't require them. The killer was at Tech for 4 years. If he had murdered these 32 innocent people within even a year of his admittance then maybe you'd have something. But 4 years? You're reaching.

To P, I applied to Tech at the same time you did, was accepted, and as you can see, graduated. Tech DID NOT require an essay but my HS required us to send one anyway. Please get your facts straight.

Posted by: Hokie4Life | April 23, 2007 10:22 AM

Hey, we all originally came out of Africa, does that make Europeans immigrants as well? That "we were all immigrants onece" is a tired, hackneyed way of avoiding a serious conversation on immigration and what it means to be an American.

Posted by: Stick | April 23, 2007 10:26 AM

If Cho had not snapped and gone on this horrible rampage, he would have been lost in the crowd, passed through college and gotten a degree when he couldn't speak or write. An illiterate with a Va Tech degree. A lot of other kids who get passed through school and go out into the world, barely functional. Look at all the professional athletes who get basketball scholarships and can't speak in complete sentences. Some are making millions of dollars a year. Meanwhile people who really want to go can't because the cost of tuition is out of sight.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 10:29 AM

Who died and made Mr. Fisher keeper of the college admissions key? He is obviously "fishing" for a way to prolong a storyline that may finally be losing steam. Many of us have family members with some degree or another of mental illness who move along in their daily lives undetected and perhaps rightfully so. Rather than attach VaTech for making education assessible, let's tackle health care reform-- most insurance plans do not adequately cover mental illness treatment-- and patients' rights-- family members are basically helpless in pursuit of getting loved ones into effective treatment without their consent and really sick people will never consent because their perceived reality is warped, etc. There but for the grace of God go many of us.

Posted by: Sue | April 23, 2007 10:31 AM

Fred, the Centerville Korean American community is as much to blame for Cho as the African American community is to blame for Malvo and the U.S. Army is to blame for Tim McVeigh. Which isn't to say there isn't any community blame-- just don't point fingers where they come right back at yourself.

As for his parents, now THEY may genuinely share some burden of guilt. How could you not be aware that your child is insane?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 10:34 AM

Stick, are you saying that Europeans are not immigrants to America?

Posted by: Spencer | April 23, 2007 10:36 AM

according to Jas, no international student should ever step foot on an american campus because people like him worked too hard to have to be turned down.

Posted by: T in VA | April 23, 2007 10:38 AM

Uh, essay. That would have solved everything.

"Why do you want to attend Va. Tech?"

"So I can kill as many of my classmates as possible once I'm a student there. I couldn't accomplish this goal at my safety school."

This article proves that the media have absolutely nothing else to say about this entire tragedy. From second guessing security procedures with talking heads the very day the tragedy was still unfolding, to this blather about how paying a few more admissions counselors to review applications.

Posted by: Patrick | April 23, 2007 10:38 AM

A number of commmenters have argued that if VT had screened Mr. Cho out, his rampage would simply have been shifted to another, less selective school, or occured in a workplace somewhere.

First, we don't tell people not to lock their doors at night because doing so just shifts any potential robbery down the street to another house where the residents are less careful about security. All colleges and universities should share a concern about avoiding the kind of tragedy VT has suffered. If there are practical ways to change the admissions process to identify seriously disturbed students, then they should be generally adopted.

Second, no one has argued that this should be the only response - and it could help make other responses more effective. There appear to have been plenty of warning signs - but Mr. Cho was also apparantly moving through the normal stages of life. Being told "no, you aren't ready to move on to our university - you need to get help first" by each of the schools he applied to might (and this is only a "might") have been one more wake-up call for the family, and for Mr. Cho himself.

This is only one small piece of the puzzle - but we shouldn't rule it out of bounds.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 10:39 AM


Wah. Maybe you should thank VPI for saving your son's life by not admitting him.

Posted by: dirrtysw | April 23, 2007 10:40 AM

Marc is wrong on yet another detail. "First generation" does not mean first generation American, but first generation in the family to go to college.

It makes sense to encourage and help people whose families have not been to college before.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 10:40 AM

Why should one community or ethnic group take blame for one person's action, whether it's Cho, Malvo, McVeigh, Columbine kids, and etc?

Posted by: Sigh! | April 23, 2007 10:40 AM

Good comment, Patrick.

Posted by: Spencer | April 23, 2007 10:43 AM

I am very dissapointed in the lack of logic in this article. Apparently all the good stories were taken. It wasn't enought that in the past week the US has seen the worst shooting in history, a deadly air show crash in a residential neighborhood, a failing World Bank leader who is from our curent administration, a tumultuous increase in violence in Irak, and a close election in France which could elect the first woman to the presidency in a western nation. I appologize, university admissions are clearly more important than all of those issues, combined. You work for a newspaper, how about reading the front page from time to time? I am very dissapointed that such a blog was written for big and prestigious newspaper. For shame.

Posted by: reader | April 23, 2007 10:43 AM

I went to a small Jesuit university in New Orleans and I really think that Cho would 1) not have gotten in as an essay was mandated and 2) would not have stayed in as MANY classes counted attendance as 30 percent of your grade, so you cannot possibly do well if you don;t show up. Cho missed classes for a MONTH! Also when I had academic problems I saw the DEAN of Arts and Sciences directly, can't imagine that would ever happen at a larger school. I DO think that someone can slip through the cracks more easily at a larger school (my school was 5,000, and at the time, largely commuter). Noone has talked about psycological profiles. Why can't we at least give prospective students the Rorscharch??? IMHO the system failed this individual LONG before college. He had serious sensory intergration and behavioral issues in elementary school. I think this case is terribky sad and needs to be a wakeup call for our society. From what I have read kids who went to school with him could not have been suprised when they heard what he ultimately did with his life

Posted by: Sarah | April 23, 2007 10:43 AM

"Many of us have family members with some degree or another of mental illness who move along in their daily lives undetected and perhaps rightfully so."

I have to strongly object to this. We're talking about a severe mental illness that made Mr. Cho a mortal danger to everyone around him. This is a far cry from the depression, panic disorder, what have you, that is a real challenge for an individual - but not a threat to the life or health of anyone else.

Mr. Cho needed to be detected, and dealt with - just as much as the drunk driver or armed robber. Sensitivity to the rights and dignity of people with mental illnesses is a good thing, but we have to be able to draw the line at a place that gives us a fighting chance to prevent mass murder.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 10:46 AM

I'm wondering why, once again, we're hearing how an institution has somehow "failed." Lets wonder instead what his parents knew and what they were thinking, to launch such a troubled child into the world.

Posted by: Skeptic | April 23, 2007 10:46 AM

No brainer here Marc. *Ethnicity* is number one on VT's list-read your own copy. A state mandated policy of social engineering to dilute the human population of every government and corporate entity in the US. Cho turned out to be an affirmative action killer.

Posted by: Unkle Cracker | April 23, 2007 10:48 AM

Don't colleges interview prospective students anymore? In the 60's they did.

Also, why did no one make a big deal of this kid's refusal to speak in class and friendless life from the age of elementary school?

Posted by: sheila08 | April 23, 2007 10:49 AM

Uncle Cracker, hmmmm.... your comment sounds a lot like Neo-Nazi.

Posted by: Spencer | April 23, 2007 10:51 AM

I don't disrespect VT for admitting Cho, but I sure do disrespect VT for giving passing grades to anyone who writes as poorly as Cho did and as poorly as some of its alumni who have posted comments here. Tech's engineering programs may be pretty good, but its undergraduate liberal arts programs don't seem too impressive.

However, Cho's academic performance is far less important to me than his mental health, and I wonder if this tragedy may have been avoided if (a) the university had expelled Cho or required him to undergo treatment as a condition of remaining there following the complaints about his behavior by the English professors and the students whom he stalked, (b) he had gotten a high-quality mental evaluation in 2005 after he discussed suicide, (c) a judge had ordered his commitment rather than outpatient treatment, and (d) the state of Virginia barred the sale of guns to anyone whom a court has declared mentally ill and dangerous.

Posted by: cm | April 23, 2007 10:54 AM

Spencer: My ancestors came here from Germany and Ireland 160 years ago. They came for a better life and they worked hard, learned the language, sent their kids to school. None of their kids turned out to be mass murderers, drug dealers, wife beaters, gangsters, (or professional basketball players). My ancestors came here for a better life for themselves and their kids because life in their native countries was too unbearable. Famine in Ireland, civil war in Germany. Can you imagine how horrible life had to be to risk an unpredictable ocean voyage just to get away from it? They called those ships 'coffin ships' because many who stepped aboard died enroute to America. Now, 160 years later, I consider myself an American, and damned proud of it, too. Don't get me started on the number of relatives who served, and some died, in the military for your rights, bub.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 10:55 AM

Those who are claiming "ethnicity" as a reason why Cho got accepted should know that in most universities, being asian doesn't help you get in anywhere at all. Why? There are too many qualified Asian-American applicants for the "quota" that universities want to fill up.

Affirmative action is for other ethnicities, not asian.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 10:56 AM

Even if VT had required essays, Cho probably would have written a bland enough essay not to freak anyone out and still would have gotten in. I think the bigger question is how he was able to stay. Between the stalking and the poor class performance, he should have been asked to pack his bags long ago. It doesnt make VT look good that they allowed such a poor performer with such major issues to stick around.

Posted by: dc | April 23, 2007 10:57 AM

Hey anonymous, did you day "Don't get me started on the number of relatives who served, and some died, in the military for your rights, bub"? What the heck does that mean? My ancestors are from Englad 200 years ago. You did say your ancestors are from Germany, right? No wonder you speak like you do.

Posted by: Spencer | April 23, 2007 10:59 AM

I'd also wondered how Cho made it into VT. Not because he was antisocial or exhibited any signs of mental instability, but because he was an English major who couldn't write. Having read a little of the play he wrote for class, I was struck by how poor and how young the writing was, like something written by a really angry adolescent.

So here was a kid applying to a big, fairly well-respected engineering school as an English major, even though he didn't seem to have an aptitude for writing or language. Why go to VT at all? Or is it that getting into a top liberal arts school would have been significantly more difficult, but non-engineering majors can slip into VT more easily because they don't have much competition? And I wonder why he even picked VT in the first place. Not an engineering major, and it's hard to believe he just fell in love with the campus.

The lack of an essay requirement is interesting to me only because it seems unlikely he would've been admitted -- as an English major -- on the basis of a writing sample. But I don't think it's appropriate to fault an admissions department without training in psychological evaluation for not spotting psychological disorders in a (missing) admissions essay. Besides, should antisocial kids not be allowed to go to good colleges? Depressed kids? If it became known that someone was denied admission to a school because the admissions department had "profiled" the student on a psychological level, I think people would be kind of upset...

Posted by: Tom | April 23, 2007 11:00 AM

"it became known that someone was denied admission to a school because the admissions department had "profiled" the student on a psychological level, I think people would be kind of upset..."

Agreed. But perhaps we need to rethink our approach to handling the most severe mental illnesses. I'm not talking about stigma, but simply finding a way to identify individuals who are a danger to themselves and the people around them, and requiring them to get appropriate help.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 11:03 AM

how bout just asking the media to just STOP IT with the coverage. it is sickening. just go away.
let them heal. where were you before so stop the faux pandering. now.

Posted by: LINDAB | April 23, 2007 11:05 AM

Cho's story brings up many questions. What are the obligations of others to intervene when a fellow human being is in such obvious pain? Could his roommates have done more? Why didn't his family try to get him more help? What did his sister think to do when he was briefly admitted to a psychiatric ward? However, this being said, it seems that Cho did a very good job of concealing the depth of his derangement. Though it seems that the English Department made a reasonable effort to try an help this young man, it seems that he got away with a lot of bizarre behavior which ought not to have been tolerated. You could argue in retrospect that the school system from elementary school onward failed to be accountable and to make him accoutable. Our system is not conducive to making a difference when the individual is not aware of his own problems and is in many respects hiding how disturbed he really is. Afterall, he was sharing a suit with other students for months and they really had no idea he was buying guns, taking target practice, etc. The whole situation is just extremely sad.

Posted by: Eric Smith | April 23, 2007 11:12 AM

blamed your son not the school. Maybe your son was just not smart enough to get in.

Posted by: bob | April 23, 2007 11:18 AM

I did the math. VT is not a "selective" school if it accepts 12,600 out of 19,000 applicants. That is close to two thirds. There is a lot of confusion about the difficulty of getting into college today, and the misuse of terms like "selective" perpetuates that confusion.

Posted by: kaleberg | April 23, 2007 11:19 AM

Mr. Fisher raises the same questions that I had relative to Cho's entry into VT. Another issue is how he graduated from high school? If I had sat through an English class (or any class) and refused to respond to my teacher (as has been reported by numerous classmates of Cho), then (a) my parents would have been notified of my impending dismissal, (b) my grade would have suffered immeasurably; therefore, I would have not graduated, or I would have been very low in my graduating class.

Posted by: adjjones | April 23, 2007 11:20 AM

Cho was most likely a boiling cauldron
of "messed up" under the surface for a long time. People can hide behind a facade of "quiet, reserved, shy" for any reason. He was troubled, no reflexion on his ethnicity, acceptance to college, or
anything else. He tragically could not cope with whatever was within him and took
all those promising lives away as a result.
There are a lot of unstable people in the world, just hope they aren't in the midst of a large group of innocent souls when they lose it.

Posted by: gmc | April 23, 2007 11:22 AM

we seem to forget that things like this are mere "blips" on the scope, anomalies that crop up in the larger picture. there is little or nothing that can be done to stop these things. you could limit or restrict things, legislate and enforce things, but in the end they will happen someplace, somehow, to someone.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 11:22 AM

Sorry, guys, there is no law against being insane, only against certain insane acts--and many sane ones I might add. Had Cho survived his lunacy and stood for his crimes, most of you would be clamoring for life imprisonment or the death penalty. His final heroic (or cowardly) act of taking his own life at least granted you that wish. So what if his parents knew he was insane? They were powerless to "fix him" or to control his interactions with others. He was an adult. (Read Bebe Moore Campbell's "72 Hours," try on his parent's moccasins, and walk a mile.) And to my sister Diane-- speaking is not a pre-requisite for being promoted in primary school or at any other level. What if Cho had been mute, would that make you feel better about his social prowess or lack thereof? As a painfully shy child, I spoke to few people outside my immediate family circle. Had I been assigned to a less astute 1st grade teacher, I might have been labeled "special ed." and subsequently denied lots of experiences afforded my peers. I didn't find my voice until my teen years. Then I was a cheerleader, class president, homecoming princess,... a "normal" popular kid who ultimately graduated from high school and college with honors. Today, I have a wonderful marriage, great kids, successful career, am well-traveled, etc. and I have yet to murder anyone. So much for the non-speaking theory. Incredible, indeed.

Posted by: Sue | April 23, 2007 11:26 AM

Offering admission to 12,600 out of 19,000 who applied - or about 2 out of 3 - doesn't strike me as being all *that* selective.

Posted by: saxlaw | April 23, 2007 11:33 AM

Sue, thanks for speaking out for the shy and quiet people.

Posted by: Sigh! | April 23, 2007 11:33 AM

As one who grew up in Virginia, attended a Virginia state college (not Va Tech), and now facing sending my oldest child to college (hopefully!) in four years, the topic of admissions, especially in Virginia, is quite interesting to me. Yes, requiring at least one essay should give a college admissions committee better insight as to an applicant's virtues, weaknesses, passions, and overall character. However, in this day and age of the "helicopter parents" who hover constantly over thier children's every moves, one cannot even be sure that the students have written these essays themselves. In fact, I would wager that most have not. Most have paid expensive college coaches or had their parents "feed" them thoughts, correct their focus or slant, and correct their grammar. Many schools are accepting students now based on their "packaged person" and not the real person they are getting. At least the test scores and grades are most likely their own. Comments from the guidance office and teachers, sent DIRECTLY from those teachers and offices (with no interference from students) would be the most truthful reflections of students of those that are designed to enhance the scores and grades.

Posted by: MomFacingCollege | April 23, 2007 11:35 AM

Mr. Fisher,
Your article is an insulting stretch of logic and reason. Clearly, the only thing left unquestioned by the vultures that have descended on Virginia Tech and its Administration was the admissions process. You have thankfully righted that in assuming that any change in a process largely replicated at thousands of other schools could have identified (and rejected) one individual who was to commit this atrocity two years later.
If only there had been an essay requirement, this never would have happened!
How astute of you further to imply a comparison between the "marginal extra money" of a few extra admissions officers and the 33 lives lost. Certainly, a fair statement.
Thanks for your latest constructive contribution to the general mass of media refuse surrounding this horrible event. I speak for myself when I ask you to apologize for this absurd claim, but all of us at Virginia Tech wish the media would end its rampant and uninformed speculation as they attempt to place blame under the guise of seeking answers.

Cameron Lewis
Class of 2009
Virginia Tech

Posted by: Cameron | April 23, 2007 11:36 AM

A lot of severe mental illness doesn't manifest itself until the late teens and early twenties. Schizophrenia is a prime example. It's a mistake to try to diagnose Cho without real information, but it is likely that his function and his sanity both decreased significantly during the time he was at VT. There may not have been any markers on even the most thorough application.

Schools need a system to get help to those kids who go off the rails due to late-manifesting mental illness. It's too common--and while there are seldom wholesale school shootings, there are few colleges who don't have handfuls of suicide attempts every semester. Yes, these kids are legally adults, but perhaps part of the school policy could include requiring people with certain red flags to be treated by a counselor in order to continue as students.

Posted by: krasni | April 23, 2007 11:41 AM

I have actually had a little experience with the admissions process at Georgetown, and one thing I can say is that essays are the bane of the admissions committee's existence. With essays schools are mainly trying to see if possible candidates can express themselves grammatically and logically. Too many applicants feel the need to be "original" in their essays. I remember one kid from a WASP suburb tried to show his diversity sensitivity (I suppose) by writing his essay in his best rendition of urban street language. Then there are the essays in orange crayon, the visual aids. In other words, a well-written essay that happens to express a dark view of the world would not necessarily set off any red flags.

Posted by: Paul | April 23, 2007 11:42 AM

To those questioning the selectivity of VT, check out the acceptance rates at a cross-section of schools. Most accept virtually everyone who applies and sends a check that clears. By the standards of all 3000 or so colleges and universities in the US, VT is pretty selective. There is only a handful of schools that accept less than half of all applicants and those with truly low acceptance rates like the Ivies are very rare indeed.

Posted by: Loudounian | April 23, 2007 11:43 AM

How ironic that Tech doesn't require these requirements for an undergraduate degree, however, for me to be admitted to the Masters Program which will require me to shell out about 40K, I have to submit a resume, a letter stating why I want admission to the program, and a letter from my supervisor.

Posted by: Leslie | April 23, 2007 11:45 AM

After doing a little more research, which was accomplished via an internet search engine freely available to the public, it would appear that the Americans with Disabilities Act created a right that mentally ill people could attend college.

In other words, even if VT expended scads of money to perform a stringent background check on Mr. Cho, even if his mental illness came to light before he was admitted, VT couldn't deny his admission for that reason alone, especially if he "tested well."

Posted by: Goaltender66 | April 23, 2007 11:52 AM

Demos, we do not necessarily have different viewpoints, perhaps just different vantage points. I have seen this up close and personal a few times. Mental illness doesn't usually start out "severe," it is progressive and can begin as the mild depression, anxiety and other disorders of which you speak. I have (at least) three bi-polar family members (one immediate). One was a self-medicating drug addict for decades until he became compliant with his treatment. Now he runs his own successful business. One was committed multiple times before giving in to a lifetime of medication and psychotherapy. She is a tenured, published, award-winning university professor. The third, a university student, took her own life just over a month ago, within months of diagnosis and commencement of treatment. In hindsight, all three exhibited signs from childhood. It's complicated, but I agree, there has to be a better way forward. Healthcare and patients' rights reform are a good start.

Posted by: Sue | April 23, 2007 11:52 AM

All the stretching and grasping to find out why Virginia Tech let the gunman in and let him stay are no different than speculating on whether a woman who was raped somehow brought it on herself by a history of flirtation, dressing provacatively, etc. That is completely immoral as is blaming Virginia Tech or its administration for being the victim of this horrible act of a madman.

Stop blaming the victim and blame the perpetrator.

Posted by: Tom H | April 23, 2007 11:52 AM

A waste of bandwith, Mr. Fisher. This piece is unsubstantiated and based wholly on conjecture. There is no evidence that his admissions information would have even yielded hints of a mental illness, and even if it did, admissions officers are not mental health practitioners.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 11:52 AM

Cho was a Gook of Hazard

Posted by: Alberto Gonzalez | April 23, 2007 11:53 AM

to leslie, aside from the 40k, how is that process any real different than applying for another job?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 11:53 AM

The irresponsible and reprehensible Monday morning quarterbacking by the media continues unabated as we head into week 2 since the tragic events of April 16. Fisher, when are you going to get into your head that it is impossible to prevent every danger, tragedy, and horror in society?

Posted by: Keith | April 23, 2007 11:55 AM

Mr. Fisher implies that because Cho's sister got into Princeton that he must have been academically proficient as well. That is a huge, misguided assumption.

I agree that there should have been an interview process.

Posted by: phoaglan | April 23, 2007 11:55 AM

"The real problem here is a mental health system that is grossly underfunded and is hamstrung by too many rules that keep people who need involuntary care from getting it."

No, the real problem is we don't have a bunch of pre-cogs lying in a pool somewhere telling Tom Cruise who to arrest before they commit a crime.

Look, from what we can tell this was a sick individual who went to great lengths to hide what he was planning. He went about preparing intelligently, renting vans and hotel rooms to prepare his videos.

This hindsight stuff is all 20/20 but just wait until the avalanche of lawsuits starts hitting the academic sector in a few years because they've been secretly psychologically profiling and invading their student's privacy all in the name of security.

Posted by: Jaredd | April 23, 2007 11:57 AM

This is an example of why Virgina Tech has asked the media to leave their campus.

Posted by: phoaglan | April 23, 2007 11:59 AM

Cho was in semester #8 at Tech. He was a capable student and part of Tech. Live with it.

Posted by: Ralph | April 23, 2007 12:00 PM

Alberto Gonzalez, what's up with a racist remark "Gook"? Should we call you "Yo, hombre or amigo"?

Posted by: Sigh! | April 23, 2007 12:02 PM

"Sorry, guys, there is no law against being insane, only against certain insane acts--and many sane ones I might add."

That's righ, insanity is not a crime - nor should it be. It is, in fact, a generally recognized defense against criminal liability.

However, certain forms of severe mental illness can make someone a serious danger to society. It is neither unreasonable nor unjust to say that we must identify such individuals and require appropriate treatment - including institutionalization, if necessary - to protect both them and the people around them.

I don't think there's any real question about the legal principle involved - involuntary commitment was actually considered in Cho's case. The issue is whether we're identifying people who are a threat to society, and whether we're making the appropriate decisions once they are identified. We have, as a society, made real strides towards destigmatizing mental illness and "mainstreaming" individuals with less severe mental illnesses. We may have been to quick to commit people in the past - have we in reaction become too slow to commit people like Mr. Cho?

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 12:07 PM

"Cho was in semester #8 at Tech. He was a capable student and part of Tech. Live with it."

Unfortunately, he wouldn't let all of the students and teachers on the Tech. campus do exactly that. That's the problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 12:08 PM

phoaglan: "Mr. Fisher implies that because Cho's sister got into Princeton that he must have been academically proficient as well. That is a huge, misguided assumption."

I think the implication is that he would be admissions savvy, not necessarily academically proficient.

Posted by: Loudounian | April 23, 2007 12:09 PM

There were many opportunities to to identify and treat Cho's psychosis before he went on a shooting rampage. Every organization that dealt with Cho: the Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia Tech, the police, the mental health community, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, ineffectively dealt with the symptoms Cho presented. Most of the reasons for the lack of effective response can be described as too much deference to Cho's right of privacy.

Posted by: Mister Methane | April 23, 2007 12:10 PM

Cho was severely autistic, not mentally ill, beginning as a child. He never should have been in Virginia*s public school system; there are many children who should not be attending our public schools. They need to be in special schools receiving professional mental health care. We know he had problems in middle school dealing with other kids because of his inability or unwillingness to talk. Once the public school system permits a child to stay in the system despite his extremely asocial behavior typified in autism, then there was no doubt that he would graduate from a Virginia public high school, no matter what problems he had, as long as he did reasonably well academically. Given that he graduated, one of the state universities, which VT is, would have accepted him as they would any other student. Even if he had gone to a two year community college, if his grades were at least a C, he would have been automatically accepted at a four year state university. This is more or less what the laws are in Virginia. That*s why the graduates of four year colleges are so much less educated and skilled than they used to be, not just in Virginia, but especially in Virginia. Since Americans decided to be politically correct and especially after threats of litigation by every *special* group on the grounds of *discrimination* (racial minorities, disabled, poor children, you name it, there*s an advocacy group) the doors have been flung wide open to taxpayer funded support of everyone rather than implementing selection processes that determine those students most worthy of education and accepting only them. There*s just no such thing left that says that a person must show his *worth* to attend college. More taxpayer dollars are spent in public K-12 for a child *with disability* than for a regular normal child, at least twice as much. That*s why we are going down the tubes as a nation in educating our kids. As for Cho and how he ended going ballistic, the fault lies with his mother who vastly favored his sister, never even tried to get him mental health care, prayed for him to change as if that would do anything, and went to work because she said the family needed money. Her behavior is not a result of her being Korean; her behavior is a result of being a parent who blames herself for his autism. Many mothers especially end up feeling guilty, although some do just the opposite by pretending their child is perfectly normal. In this case, her guilt made her ignore him and pretend he was not there; it seems that she simply would not accept him in her life. Cho*s father was at fault for not stepping in and doing something about his wife*s ignoring her son or perhaps he felt as guilty as she did. Anyway, it*s obvious that Cho*s rant is directed at his parents - not anyone he went to school with. It seems to me that his pent-up anger was actually at his parents. In the old Korean culture, if she had chosen to ignore him, another relative would have picked up the slack and taken care of him, keeping him at home and not sending him to school - ever. This is where things went hay-wire for the Cho family because in America he was expected to go to school, unlike Korea. But the mother did not want to hear anything about his autism or mental illness. It*s also obvious that they did not socialize with others in the Korean community because of their shame about their son. This could happen to any family, not just Koreans. The sad part is that social services will get involved when they see physical abuse of a school age child, but psychological abuse of this kind (being ignored, knowing your parents are ashamed of you, getting no attention from your family) is not on the radar screen. Getting back to VT admission policy, Marc Fisher should understand that Virginia state universities allow just about anyone to attend. And just about everyone graduates. So this was a pointless exercise and not worth a column at all.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 12:11 PM

It is ignorant to assume that this young man's troubled past would have shone through in a more rigorous admissions application. He was smart enough to orchestrate this blood bath - presumably he would be smart enough to doctor up an essay to come off as a well-adjusted teen. Furthermore, it is not the responsibility of university admission officers to diagnose mental illness. That is not what they are trained for, nor is it appropriate.

Posted by: JP | April 23, 2007 12:11 PM

It's alot tougher to get into VT now. I graduated high school in 1998 and got into VT with a 3.1 GPA and an 1150 on my SATs. I didn't write an essay. I actually wanted to go to Florida State and got in.. then I visited both VT and Florida State and immediately fell in love with VT's campus. Choosing VT was the best decision I've ever made.

Posted by: Ryan | April 23, 2007 12:11 PM

VT is not very selective - they let in 2/3 of those who apply. Cho went there most likely because he could not have gotten into Princeton or other such selective colleges which require interviews, personal essays, teacher referrels, etc.

VT is not at fault here, folks. No one could really have predicted that THIS very sad young man would snap in such a violent way. There are a LOT of depressed, unhappy, lonely people in this world every day and some of them are college students. VT reached out to him but he would not be helped.

Posted by: wingman | April 23, 2007 12:12 PM

Mr. Fisher, I think you ask some valid questions, as clearly Cho was unable to function properly in a university setting. I ,too, wondered why he chose VA Tech (as an English major), and why he remained enrolled dsepite his obvious difficulties and lack of classroom performace.Having gone through the college application process with two of my children in the past several years,I can attest to the fact that other public and private universities and colleges here in Virginia require a great deal more information from their prospective students.That begs the question, did Cho chose VA Tech because he perceived the admissions process to be lax, and that, once in, he would be "under the radar" in such a large student body?

Posted by: deb | April 23, 2007 12:13 PM

He got in because he was qualified. If some US citizen did not get in, then that citizen was NOT qualified. If we admitted people to universities based on their citizenship status, we would quickly become less-than-mediocre. Thank God for the non-citizens who are raising our standards!!!!

Posted by: Not a US Citizen??? | April 23, 2007 12:13 PM

my daughter applied to george mason and they did a personal interview of each applicant they thought was qualified. sounds good to me.

Posted by: lindab | April 23, 2007 12:13 PM

Hey, what about public high and middle schools? Who's protecting us from guys like that?

Posted by: Lady Bird | April 23, 2007 12:14 PM

The article lists what the college considers for admission: ethnicity is right at the top of the list although this guy was most likely admitted for other reasons. Ethnicity is code for: American Africans and more of that diversity crap that haunts education in this country and has resulted in dumbing down of the curriculum. This guy being an American Asian probably had good grades, good SAT score and paid the full tab.

Posted by: individual | April 23, 2007 12:14 PM

I, too, had questions about how Cho got admitted to VPI. Thanks for answering them, Marc. I have even more questions about how he stayed in the English program exhibiting such poor writing.

I get the sinking suspicion that if the univeristy had held fast to strict academic standards, he would have been kicked out of the English department.

So for me, I think the shooting inadvertantly revealed a "dirty little secret" at VPI: the deteriorating standards of its undergraduate liberal arts program. It might not be the story of the shooting itself, but it's a story about the university as it struggles to regain its reputation.

Posted by: SSpring | April 23, 2007 12:15 PM


I can't believe you are blaming the Korean American community and Cho's family for what he did. You astound me. Anyone can turn out to be crazy, including your own son or daughter. We'd hope the family would recognize the signs, but in this case they clearly didnt and the school was negligent in doing something about it that could have saved 32 lives. Personally I blame you for what happened. How does that feel?

Posted by: AK | April 23, 2007 12:16 PM

"Yes, these kids are legally adults, but perhaps part of the school policy could include requiring people with certain red flags to be treated by a counselor in order to continue as students."

The average age of undergrads at most universities is around 26-27 years old. Can we please stop referring to college students as kids! Many students are in their 30s, 40s and 50s (myself included).

Colleges exist to provide education on general and specified topics, but are not institutes for social engineering, and they are not mental health facilities. But they do provide unprecedented access to those and many other resources.

Posted by: Tom H | April 23, 2007 12:17 PM

Alot has already been written about this sad event. I think there are two aspects of our current society that are obstacles to change: the accessiblity of guns (The gun lobby is way powerful). And new privacy laws that define 18 yr olds as adults. What teen or young adult will go into therapy for a mental problem without
being forced to? What about that student at GWU who went for help nad was outed for it?


Posted by: Anne | April 23, 2007 12:18 PM

I'm amazed at how quickly people want to blame people other than the killer. Cho is the only one to deserve 100% blame. Why must there be an excuse for everything? Perhaps he was mentally ill. So are many people who never shoot anyone. Should they be barred from college? How about shear meanness? Is there any way to detect that? There is no label for evil. It just is what it is. I grew up in Virginia and attended a Virginia college. It is very selective and required three essays for admissions. Guess what? We still had plenty of weirdos, loners, losers, etc. I can think of several of them who were very much like Cho, but they didn't shoot anyone. They could have just as easily. I also spent a lot of time at Va Tech visiting friends there. I didn't see anyone as weird as the folks at my own college. I have read that most serial killers and mass murderers have high IQs. In a way, they have to be unusually smart in order to pull it off. So, Mr. Fisher, I suspect that you're more likely to find whackos on the most selective campuses than you are on the less selective ones. Va Tech has super-brainy people in some of its programs (i.e. engineering, architecture, sciences) and more average people in others. Tech was just unlucky, and the only one to blame is Cho himself. He was an evil demon, and it was Tech's misfortune that he ended up there. It could have just as easily been UVA, W&M, Harvard, Middle Tennessee State, or some other fine (or not so fine) institution of higher learning.

Posted by: Amazed | April 23, 2007 12:18 PM

Alot has already been written about this sad event. I think there are two aspects of our current society that are obstacles to change: the accessiblity of guns (The gun lobby is way powerful). And new privacy laws that define 18 yr olds as adults. What teen or young adult will go into therapy for a mental problem without
being forced to? What about that student at GWU who went for help nad was outed for it?

Anne, Alexandria

Posted by: Anne | April 23, 2007 12:19 PM


we very well may not disagree. Part of this tragedy is that if Mr. Cho had received the treatment he needed - even if it was involuntary - his life might have taken an entirely different path.

I don't want to "punish" anyone for being mentally ill. On the other hand, no one benefits if a mental illness is left to fester, or if an individual with a mental illess is allowed to harm themselves or someone else.

I really am sympathetic. I don't want to go into it too much, but I've had to deal with a late adolescent who was borderline depressed and very, very angry. We insisted on counseling (we did have to insist, and we were lucky enough to be dealing with a minor so that we could insist), and things have turned out very well so far. It turns out that the situation was not as bad as we were concerned that it might be.

But, we had to know. It would have been irresponsible not to have the child evaluated and treated - and had there been a danger of suicide or harm to other members of the family, we would have had to have dealt with it.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 12:20 PM

one of my relatives is a mental health professional and works with many college students (privately, not through a university). At times she has been required to submit a treatment/progress note AND a letter stating to the best of her professional judgment, the student should be allowed back at school and is no longer a threat to him/herself. So SOME colleges do take mental health seriously...

Posted by: awb | April 23, 2007 12:23 PM

Cho was a grad student. So what is the point of this dicussion.

Posted by: Karinka | April 23, 2007 12:23 PM

I do not find the fact that Cho got into VT or stayed there despite showing a lack of academic prowess very surprising at all. Read any blog nowadays and you will see that the most high school students can't even use the proper form of "your" or "you're" or spell something as simple as admissions.

This blog, maintained by a University of Michigan student, shows you just how intelligent many of the kids who get in to college are nowadays. This blogger takes essays and things left behind at University printers/copiers, scans them, and uploads them. Most are horribly pathetic attempts at writing. It is very alarming to know that people like these graduate from college.

Even my own graduate experience shows that teachers aren't that stringent - I feel that I have been graded FAR too generously in some cases where I put forth hardly any effort, yet still received an A. And I go to private school in DC that I have paid $45,000 for. The professor would rather pass the student and not have to deal with them or their temper tantrums when they don't get the grades they have to expect from our too-lax education system.

Posted by: k8 | April 23, 2007 12:23 PM

Long before there were laws protecting the rights of disabled persons to attend public school, colleges, work, etc, I went to both private and public colleges. In each of them were several very odd students who scared off people or just kept to themselves in an obviously abnormal way. Some were taunted. Some were ignored. None of them killed anyone on campus. Maybe they snapped later, maybe not. You just can't predict every behavior.

Posted by: wingman | April 23, 2007 12:27 PM

Since we are talking about Cho, who was it that filmed part of his video that he mailed to the news station?? If you watch, the camera is hand held and is shaking during one of his communications to us. Why was there a report early on of a second shooter?? It the school is under Federal jurisdiction, why were local police and school security told to stand down until the arrival of federal agents, some two hours after the 1st shooting -- and possible apprehension of "one" of the shooters?? Who was that was arrested and handcuffed after the 1st shooting, and how come he looks so much like Cho?????

Posted by: campus_security | April 23, 2007 12:27 PM

Bob, you are right. NOT! Racial quotas are the culprit.

Posted by: Jas. | April 23, 2007 12:28 PM

"The Cold Splash of Reality, With A Side of Sizzle."

Haha...what an idiot...I can't believe I wasted the 5 minutes to read your article. I mean, it's almost as bad as "Richard McBeef"...

Posted by: fisherisstupid | April 23, 2007 12:31 PM

Seriously? You've found a way blame the admissions department? I think that's stretching it a bit Mr. Fisher. Actually, it's utterly and completely ridiculous because what would have been prevented had Tech had stricter admissions requirements? Nothing. Granted Cho might not have shot up Tech students, maybe he'd decided to just start shooting people in the parking lot outside of a Redskins game. If a guy's going to lose it, he's going to lose it and we shouldn't point fingers just for the sake of finger-pointing, which is exactly what this article does. If you want to write about stricter admissions requirements for colleges and universities, then more power to you, but don't do it under the pretense that it's related to this tragedy because it really isn't.

Posted by: non-finger-pointer | April 23, 2007 12:32 PM

The movement to prevent unnecessary commitment of mental patients coincided with the movement to reduce government spending on social services--with many tragic results. We don't have enough resources for outpatient treatment or monitoring. And sometimes a mentally ill and dangerous person escapes commitment only because of a lack of beds in the local mental facility or because of pressure to keep costs down, not because release is the best option for the patient or public safety. Budget cuts sometimes lead to mental health diagnoses made by undertrained and/or overworked staffers after too little time spent with the patient. I don't want to return to the days when we locked up harmless eccentric individuals too readily, but the homeless persons I see every day at Union Station remind me that our current system is not good for many of our neighbors with mental illnesses.

Posted by: cm | April 23, 2007 12:33 PM

A more relevant question Mr. Fisher might have asked: Why was Cho allowed to obtain guns? A question not for VT admissions office, but directed to politicians. Would this tragedy likely to have happened in Great Britain of Canada with stricter gun laws?

Posted by: Henry | April 23, 2007 12:36 PM

Rediculous point I think. Couldn't Cho have just lied like he did when he was buying his guns? He never showed violent behavior in HS as far as I've heard. How hard would it have been to get a teacher to give a pat answer if his grades were good?

Also whoever rants that universities are supposed to teach young adult how to behave is asking a lot. They aren't supposed to be parents, and neither are any level of schooling. It is kind of rediculous to blame them for not having "do not kill your fellow classmates" seminars.

Posted by: dave | April 23, 2007 12:36 PM

I'm so tired of the media type of Cho's being a Korean - such racism! His being born in South Korea has no brearing on what happened. He was just mentally ill and delusional, that has nothing to do with his race. Are you also suggesting that all mentally ill people should be barred from attending a good college because they are guaranteed to become a mass murderer? Such an over-generalization, on top of a racism.

Posted by: EL | April 23, 2007 12:37 PM

WP is smarter than everyone here. They post a piece of sensationalist crap and everybody responds with indignation. I bet this guy is going to get a big fat bonus for generating a high volume of "clicks".

Posted by: SiNICK | April 23, 2007 12:37 PM

Let's all play the blame game!

Marc, you seem to be blaming the university for not having an adequate admissions screening process. Many of those commenting blame the university, his high school, his family, his ethnic community, the mental health system, so forth and so on.

Why isn't anyone blaming Cho? This lack of personal responsibility is partly what is wrong with our social system.

It seems as though any time such a tragedy happens, we all have to find someone else to act as the scapegoat, especially if the perpetrator is dead. Does that negate his or her responsibility?

Was Cho mentally ill? Who knows -- it seems a moot point now. I read the plays he reputedly wrote. I saw anger and poor writing skills, not derangement. Of course, as a lay person I am scarcely qualified to make such an assumption, but anger does not mean the individual does not know right from wrong.

I believe his careful planning indicates he knew exactly what he was doing and knew that it was wrong. Quit blaming everyone else and put that blame right back where it belongs -- on Cho.

Posted by: Beth Moore | April 23, 2007 12:37 PM

The problem with Mr. Cho would not be solved if Virginia Tech had required teacher references and essays. Assuming Cho would be excluded from admission to Virginia Tech on the basis of a reference or essay, he would likely be admitted to some other school where he would be free to do his horrible deeds there.
America needs tighter gun control. Part of that would be a system to prohibit the sale of arms to those suffering from mental illness. We need better treatment for those suffering from mental illness.

Posted by: Nate | April 23, 2007 12:38 PM

I was actually quite interested in this piece and find the responses to it fascinating. I, for one, have very much wondered how this boy made it all the way through a school system that has been described as "excellent" without *ever* speaking, and then, how he ever got into a halfway selective college (though VT, frankly, sounds as if it is not terribly selective at all, or at least, is only moderately so) -- it just seemed bizarre. Every spring the media is full of stories of valedictorians being turned away from their chosen schools, including state schools, as the percentage of people who attend a college of some sort goes up. So I have been curious about this...and was glad to see it. The piece did go off the rails a bit at the end, when it strayed into criticizing VT's admission policy. As others have said, he just would have done this somewhere else, and an admissions policy can't adequately weed out mental illness, if it has been hidden and ignored for so long by so many! Obviously, there is lots of blame to go around here, starting with a school system that did not flag his (apparently) obvious disabilities when he was much, much younger and intervention might have helped and a paralyzed, dysfunctional family unable to deal with him (and I have found the family's statement, that they had NO idea he was so troubled, rather odd. Clearly, they knew all too well how weird he was, including the sister! they obviously just hoped he would miraculously wake up one day and be normal). But I know that many school systems look the other way when children like him come along, as helping such disabled children, especially ones with serious illnesses as autism, can be so incredibly expensive...and they wait for parents to make a stink before doing so. And clearly, these parents were NOT going to agitate on behalf of their son, they were too deep in denial and shame. But still...this whole story really reveals just how inadequate our country's mental health system is. There are probably so many like him out there, who have fallen through the cracks, if they do not have families aggressively fighting for them.

Posted by: beam | April 23, 2007 12:40 PM

I am from VT and just went down there this past weekend to see how my community was doing. Just like suspected the media was not allowed in any Restaurants or local places on campus. People just can't relate to a isolated incident that is trully horrific and very sad. What is sad is that in a Information age like we are in today the media speculates and beats things to death with coverage and stupid articles like this.

What is also interesting is everyone in here is debating on VT acceptance policy, how many of you even realize the amount of student population growth in the past 15 years? They will let anyone in ? Well, go for it and try. The numbers you see for acceptance rates are skewed due to the growth and change of policy over the years.

What I am proud of is to be a Hokie and always a Hokie. My visit to campus over the weekend reassured me why I love VT so much.

Now let people grieve and get on with their life and stop stupid articles like this from being written.

Posted by: WillyD | April 23, 2007 12:40 PM

The first responder at 12:11 who did not leave a name is dead WRONG about Virginia state universities not being very selective. In fact, they are among the MOST selective state universities in the country. The only equivalent system is California and Michigan in terms of selectivity. Some colleges in Virginia aren't as selective as others, but for a school of its size and scope, Virginia Tech is rather selective. UVA and W&M are extremely selective, usually accepting only between 20-30 per cent of applicants. JMU and Mary Washington are also quite selective. Virginia is full of excellent schools of varying degrees of selectivity. There are ultra smart people at all colleges, and there are evil people everywhere. Cho did not want to be helped, and he resisted help at every opportunity. Stop blaming Va Tech, Fairfax Schools, his parents, Koreans, or anyone else.

Posted by: AnonymoustoAnonymous | April 23, 2007 12:41 PM

Fisher: "Why does one of Virginia's premier state colleges not spend the marginal extra money it would take to hire a few more admissions officers so that it can use a more probing application and seek teacher recommendations and personal essays to get a fuller picture of the students it is admitting?"
Well, since they are such a great school, what would this accomplish? The "marginal" extra money (there is no such thing as extra money, btw) could be better spent elsewhere. Marc, your entry this time is completely pointless.

Posted by: BdtLR, VA | April 23, 2007 12:41 PM

The issue of greater concern to me is that Virginia's gun laws are so lax that young man who was clearly psychotic had no trouble buying not just one, but two! That, to me, is the bigger public health and safety issue.

Posted by: Selden | April 23, 2007 12:44 PM

EL: "I'm so tired of the media type of Cho's being a Korean - such racism! His being born in South Korea has no brearing on what happened. He was just mentally ill and delusional, that has nothing to do with his race. Are you also suggesting that all mentally ill people should be barred from attending a good college because they are guaranteed to become a mass murderer? Such an over-generalization, on top of a racism."

EL: Being Korean was a big part of the person we call Cho. It's not like he was fifth-generation. It's an important part of who he was. Deal with it. No one other than racist loons is blaming this on Koreans in general.

Posted by: Loudounian | April 23, 2007 12:44 PM

Your article didn't answer the question of how did Cho get in and stay in? You assume failings on the part of the school. Cho was obviously suffering and mentally ill, not able to do his school work and teacher and students were afraid of him and had complained to authorities. How did Cho get in and stay in? When will the newspapers start working on this question? Who was pulling strings to keep him in school and get him admitted?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 12:45 PM

To campus_security:

That was your little brother. Why don't you stop in the office and we can talk?

Posted by: FBI | April 23, 2007 12:46 PM

If you're going to blame Virginia Tech for admitting Cho, you also need to blame Fairfax County Public Schools for passing him year after year. Instead of VT spending extra money on admissions counselors to read essays, maybe Fairfax County should spend money investigating why two of their graduates decided to go on shooting sprees.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 12:50 PM

Wow! I'm with 'ch'.
This article was totally pointless.
Perhaps the Post can have an article, without reference to Cho, that focuses on 'why does a student get into college'.
Seems that some people are really into this issue ...

Posted by: dmchale | April 23, 2007 12:53 PM

Cho is an "affirmative action killer"?? Unless you know absolutely nothing about the state of college education in the US, Asians are the ones being discriminated against in admissions. It's very interesting that whites always compare themselves to the black and hispanic community and complain about lower standards. However when Asians are thrown into the mix, conservative whites always dismiss the academic achievements by saying "oh those asian kids only study and don't play sports, blah blah blah" Hypocrisy at its best.

Luckily my sister and I both played varsity sports and did well academically (Yale and Duke grads), but do not come to this forum and pretend this is an affirmative action issue. Asians do not get favored in undergraduate or medical school admissions. Not at all.

Posted by: Duke Law | April 23, 2007 12:53 PM

As Joseph Samaha said at Saturday's service for his daughter, it is important to remember that the Cho family "has also lost a son." Debating VT's -- or any other university's admission's policy -- won't bring these souls back or prevent future incidents from occurring.

Posted by: casey | April 23, 2007 12:55 PM

To all the bigots who lamented about having an "American's place" taken by a non-citizen, let me just put this in context. First, Cho and his family were green card holders, which is how people who legally immigrate eventually do become citizens. But moving aside from Cho, I think now is as good a time as any to speak to your ignorance about academia / high-skill jobs and immigration:

1) You guys don't seem like you get out much. I grew up in California, but I have been living and working for the past year in China at a Chinese company partnered with an American Wall Street firm. One of my roommates is an American whose family is of Taiwanese origin who attended an Ivy League school and is working for an American marketing firm. Another is a Swiss citizen who works for a technology firm, speaks four languages and is contemplating doing a masters at Beijing or Tsinghua University. Tsinghua, incidentally, was founded by Americans around the turn of the century. His Taiwanese significant other grew up in Thailand, is completing her undergraduate degree at one of China's top universities and speaks fluent English. My last roommate is a German girl who came here with her Chinese boyfriend who had studied and worked in Germany. My point is that we live in a globalized world, and we should encourage - not discourage - interactivity. I liked the fact that my university (also Ivy League) had students and professors from around the world, and so many of my American friends went to further their education abroad following college, at places like Sorbonne and Sciences Po in France, Beijing University, National University of Singapore, Oxford and Cambridge, etc. or pursuing fellowships such as the government sponsored Fulbright. Universities in other countries welcome us with open arms, and we should continue to do likewise.

Oh, and you seem to know precious little about South Korea. Before coming to China, I spent one month there last year with several classmates helping to create an educational program for high school students. Several of them are now working on an even more ambitious project, which they successfully launched this year - South Korea's first English-language academic competition for high school students: Scholar's Cup. South Korea welcomed us with open arms.

At a time when Americans are accused of knowing precious little about the world, some of us are out here desperately trying to change that impression. Comments like yours do not help.

2) If anything, academic immigration is exacting costs on other developing countries. Haven't you heard of the 'brain drain'? There's a reason that several of the professors and graduate students killed were of foreign origin - in the sciences for example, America does not fill its own need for professionals and researchers. Additionally, innovative jobs are not as zero-sum as say, factory labor. That is, generally speaking, the more talent the better. We never have enough innovation. Places like Silicon Valley or Cambridge, Massachusetts or Research Triangle or New York would not be where they are intellectually or culturally without the best and the brightest from around the world. One of my good friends from college is from Southeast Asia and now working for a top technology company, though many of her passions lie in more creative work. At school, she helped produce musicals. But, unlike the rest of us citizens, she cannot pursue her wants at will and has to stay at her job and be sponsored for more than five years before receiving a green card. With skills-based immigration like this, America is guaranteed someone who is hard working and capable.

As a matter of fact, I wish we could accept more of these skills-based immigrants and deported some of my mind-numbingly dull fellow citizens. Compared to your average American, immigrants tends to be willing to work harder, longer for less reward, as they have a need to build a life in a country where they have no established roots/families/property. Skill-based immigration is how America leverages the prosperous, open society we've created to steal the brightest from around the world.

Posted by: RX | April 23, 2007 12:57 PM

I read lots of people placing blame on the parents... and it's really hard to know. But there are some issues here that those of you who are NOT immigrants couldn't--or wouldn't want to--understand. My family and I are former DC residents now living abroad. Our son has aggression issues--and, even at age 4, could tell us how he was going to kill us. (Where does a Disney and PBS-watching child get such ideas, I don't know... but it's unnerving). The bottom line, however, is that when you live in a country other than your own, there are so many things you don't know how--or are afraid--to do. Many Americans don't know the mental health system in their own country; how would immigrants? And there are cultural issues involved here. We don't know how educated the parents were, and whether they could really assess the mental state of their child. Is is ill or just introverted? Who do you turn to? And considering how generous and available medical care is in the US (yes, I'm meaning to be sarcastic), it's possible they didn't have insurance to pay for any care even if they did see a problem.

We live in a country with socialized medical care--which includes mental health care. That has been our salvation, because we were distressed and at a loss of what to do with a child who had a hairpin-trigger anger, who threatened other children and adults regularly, and wouldn't hesitate to hit, kick, punch or bite anyone who crossed him. And while he's in this violent state, there is no way to "snap him out of it," no way to reason, no way to reach him. Our only solution is to wrap him in a heavy carpet until he calms down. He's 6. What will he be at 16? I have many sleepless nights worrying about what might be.

But thankfully we have access to good quality medical and mental health care. He has had a full physical to rule out medical causes; he is undergoing psychological tests. We parents receive counseling and assistance on how to manage this at-times unmanageable child. And we pray, a lot!

We feel lucky, even with this stressful situation, that we have support from trained professionals. Perhaps Cho's parents had no insurance and no way to medically intercede and did as best they could with what little knowledge they had. People, put yourselves in their places! Many parents want to help their children but the healthcare system in the US sucks, and maybe they had no choice.

Remember, this was a planned and calculated attack. Many of the killings that happen around the country (for example, in Washington state, in Atlanta, at Nasa, and now in Virginia) are not because people snap. These are not heat-of-the-moment outbursts. They took their guns and went some place and chose an action that killed at least one other person. There were minutes--sometimes hours, and, in Cho's case, weeks--of opportunity to chose a different path. Are all those people mentally ill? I'm not qualified to say, but I can say that the people around them often cannot see the turmoil within their loved one... and if they do, they may not have the resources to do anything about it (particularly if it requires medical care and one has limited or no coverage).

I expect that Cho's family will carry a heavy burden thoughout their lives-- not only the loss of a family member, but the guilt that comes with the "what ifs?" We may never know about Cho's childhood, but as with everything in live, the answers are rarely simple. Perhaps the strong strain of individualism in the US needs to give away a bit to a collectivism that means we wall need to play a role in the lives of those around us. Perhaps if the American community spirit was alive and well, then the mentally ill, the financially stressed, the overburdened among us would have friends and relatives--and community services--to help us all succeed and survive.

Posted by: BJ | April 23, 2007 12:57 PM

The most interesting aspect of this discussion is that, even if Cho had not been a student at Tech, he STILL would have been able to walk on campus and begin his killing. If he had been admitted, and then kicked out because of his odd behavior, grades, or whatever, he STILL would have been able to perpetrate this crime...let's please understand that there are disturbed people in the world, and short of locking them up (even without having committed a crime), there is very little we can do in a case like this.

Posted by: Amy | April 23, 2007 12:59 PM

If Cho had been a jew, and didnt get in despite having great test scores. Fisher would be in the forefront screaming anti-semitism.

Posted by: Joe Nash | April 23, 2007 1:00 PM

This guy could've snapped anywhere and at any point.

If he had lasted a few more months before snapping and school was out for the summer then maybe he would've had his outburst in a Costco, and then we could over analyze their admissions process too.

Come On.

Posted by: Jacki | April 23, 2007 1:02 PM

I read that when he first moved to this country he was pointed out in class by his teacher for not speaking in class. When pushed to speak in class, he mumbled a few words in a low voice. The whole class erupted in laughter and told him to "go back to China."

So, I'll throw some more blame out there. I blame all the kids who made fun of him and his ethnicity and their parents for not raising them right.

Posted by: SiNICK | April 23, 2007 1:05 PM

Marc Fisher's Washington Post op-ed piece disappoints today as it advocates what amounts to college admissions discrimination against the quiet and introverted. Basically, he says that in light of the actions of the school shooter Cho, Virginia Tech should have had a more strenuous admissions process in terms of essays, character recommendations, interviews, and so on. Fisher implies that during this process Cho's "deficits" would be uncovered and presumably he wouldn't have been admitted. I'm glad that at least in some analyses I've seen of this incident the point has been made that most "quiet types" are not violent. Fisher's article also overlooks the role of colleges in fostering development; a lot of people who didn't pursue extracurriculars in high school find new activities and new possibilities once they arrive on a college campus. Instead of focusing on keeping people out, I'd suggest bringing people in and then providing more support networks during that critical freshman year.

Posted by: Paul Fallavollita | April 23, 2007 1:05 PM

Cho could have walked onto the VT campus and shot those people. Universities are not fortresses. Questioning admission standards of all things at this point is just asinine. I agree with an earlier commenter, this smells a lot like Nancy Grace's cooking.

Posted by: kylejones | April 23, 2007 1:06 PM

Mr Fisher should go work for the Bush White House. He seems to be able to draw his conclusions with out a shred of evidence.

Posted by: vt80 | April 23, 2007 1:06 PM

I think Mr. Fisher's column does raise the important question here. How does a person who is unable/unwilling to communicate be admitted to a university? And, how did a person with low-level writing skills stay at the university?

The LA Times has an interesting article on the Cho family in today's paper. His mother expressed disappointment at one point that Cho's sister, not Cho, was the one who got into Princeton.

Posted by: annandale | April 23, 2007 1:06 PM

Gee, Mark. You really outdid yourself on this one. Of all of the things that might well be second-guessed, you skipped down the list an awful long way. So let's see. You want Virginia Tech to review 19,000 essays so that they may reject applications from all who appear to be from potential mass murderers. OK. I guess you made your point. Thanks. Perhaps, at some point, you might want to move up the list of questions a bit... to why the police chose to assume that if a white girl was found dead in a dorm room with an African-American kid, it is obvious that the killer must be her boyfriend. How many lives did THAT assumption cost?

Posted by: Don Bell | April 23, 2007 1:08 PM

admission officers love soccer

Posted by: dc | April 23, 2007 1:09 PM

How did the scion of the rich and powerful get into university? It is only fair Marc Fisher should also write a column on how stupid scion of the rich and powerful get into Ivy League.

Posted by: siberiafire | April 23, 2007 1:21 PM

Fisher shows an embarrassing ineptitude here--stick to a subject for which you have some facts and background.

Posted by: EH | April 23, 2007 1:21 PM

The real problem is not ethnicity (as others have shown) or stringent admissions (what admissions counselor can read the tea leaves well enough to discover a maniac?) it is the policy of inclusion. Educators in public institutions must, by law, find ways to admit or otherwise support disabled (mentally and physically) students because of the dismal lack of support for mental health institutions in particular and other mealth services in general. Students are "mainstreamed" into regular school populations because there is almost no other way to help them. Trouble is expected and teachers strive to handle it with as little trauma and damage to the child as possible. I believe this is altruism generated by teachers who devote their lives to helping children and reducing the stigma for "disabled" students, which is valuable in many, many ways. It was kindness that led Cho's professors to go way above and beyond in teaching him individually, recommending him for mental evaluations, etc. Their devotion to keeping him in school was admirable, even heroic, yet sadly misplaced. This was a boy who needed to be yanked by the scruff of the neck into an emergency room and teachers, nay educators as a whole, aren't good at making the choice that seems to them like giving up. Do we even want them to be?
Unfortunately, in Cho's case, this altruism, I believe, led them to think they were working to help when in fact they were enabling his growing psychosis. And when they actually did make the hard choice for mental evaluation they were failed by a system that rubber stamped his way back in with no follow up.
I believe VT did nothing wrong, even did a tremendous number of things right, yet still failed to prevent this horror. Just like the shameful second guessing of VT's president and chief of campus police, there is no point in manufacturing blame. Everything that seemed like the right thing to do turned out to be wrong, but can you blame the users of the system who make the best decisions they can on the information available? No. Sometimes the system just fails.
Trying to find solutions is good, but sometimes the solutions are worse than the problem: Admissions directors are not psychiatrists.

Posted by: Hmmm | April 23, 2007 1:27 PM

Cho was American. He was here legally and his parents were hard-working, tax-paying residents. He may have emigrated to the US, but as far as I can see he was an American. I read many comments about being a US citizen and how that should take priority when entering a university. Do you have any idea how long it takes to become a citizen? This is not the time or place ...that needs to be discussed elsewhere! We should not be using this tragedy as a time to discuss our immigration policies.

The pride in this country is wonderful, but sometimes it causes a lot of ignorance.
And how does bashing V Tech. solve anything? It doesn't. This young man was ill. It seems to me he would have "acted out" regardless of where he might have been.

Posted by: Amy | April 23, 2007 1:27 PM

So, your point seems to be that the shootings could have been avoided (are VT's fault) because VT admissions staff failed to identify a future mass murderer four years in advance on the basis of a 200 word essay. And the reason they failed is because their application process is flawed? So, if they had included a robust essay or more detailed questions, THEN they could have successfully predicted that high achieving student at a great school in a good neighborhood with a good family and a strong community four years later would go on a shooting rampage.

Listen to yourself, your position is self-defeating. The staff at VT are busy enough trying to cope with this, they don't need media pundits who had never thought about these issues until last week to second guess their hard work. All indications are the VT handled this as well as they could. There is evil in the world and it can't be stopped. It can be resisted and contained and worked against and punished but you can't avoid things like this. People have free will and occassionally, certain deranged members of society will use that freedom to kill their fellow man. No one coud have stopped Cain from killing Able and no one could have stopped this. The sooner you accept that, the better off you'll be.

Posted by: Mike - Fairfax | April 23, 2007 1:28 PM

It called a quata system. Taxpayers more then likely paid his tuition.

Posted by: gps | April 23, 2007 1:30 PM

One may ask how did Bush get into Harvard? And he's a much bigger mass murderer than Cho.

Posted by: Joe Nash | April 23, 2007 1:38 PM

hey gps....Cho's parents were hard working virginia residents. Their tax dollars paid for their son's education.

Posted by: Joe Nash | April 23, 2007 1:41 PM

If he didn't have the guns and bullets, his admission application wouldn't have merited this column nor any of these comments.

Posted by: bc | April 23, 2007 1:43 PM

"Do you have any idea how long it takes to become a citizen?"

Many years. There are reasons for that - not all of which you may agree with.

Nonetheless, citizenship does matter. I am a true admirer of the great thinkers of Greece, and have adopted many of their ideas and ideals. I cannot, however, claim to be Greek - no matter how much I admire and internalize the ideals. If I moved to Greece as a permanant resident alien, I could still not claim to be Greek as long as I was not a Greek citizen.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 1:43 PM

Let me add something obvious. Mr. Fisher represents all that is wrong with the media. Perhaps one day he'll find a way to earn a living and contribute positively to society.

Posted by: Alexandria | April 23, 2007 1:45 PM

"And how does bashing V Tech. solve anything? It doesn't. This young man was ill. It seems to me he would have "acted out" regardless of where he might have been."

"Bashing" VT accomplishes nothing - but that's not what's intended here. The question is whether there's a way we can identify the next Mr. Cho during the admissions process. The answer may be "no" - but it is a reasonable question to ask.

"Acting out" is a rather mild way of describing mass murder. Leaving that aside, it is possible that he would have killed had he been in another setting. But, had he been identified as a potential danger during the admissions process, that would have been one more opportunity for his family - or Mr. Cho himself - to have recognized that something was seriously wrong and sought professional help.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 1:51 PM

"He may have emigrated to the US, but as far as I can see he was an American."

No, he was not. He was, and his parents are (I don't know about his sister), citizens of South Korea. They are resident aliens. They are here legally as immigrants, but they are not citizens. They are not Americans. Living here for fifteen years does not make it so. Just as living as an expat in France doesn't make you French.

Posted by: Annandale | April 23, 2007 1:55 PM

While the atrocities that happened at Virgina Tech are unbelievable, limiting access to higher education is not the answer to preventing other school tragedies like this one from happening. Occurences such as this could have happen anywhere: disgruntled employee, unhappy high schooler. Efforts in strengthening support for mentally unstable individuals as well as stronger gun control policies that prevent dangerous individuals from accessing guns would go a longer way towards preventing another incident.

I found this article to be based on illogical fallicies as well as huge assumptions. It was completely unfounded and just goes to show that people are willing to jump to ridiculous conclusions in the face of horrifying events.

Posted by: Cynthia | April 23, 2007 1:57 PM

This tragedy could have happened on almost any college campus in the U.S. today. To say that this could have been prevented by a more stringent application process is ludicrous.

Posted by: Springer | April 23, 2007 2:04 PM

So, what is the point here.. should Tech have required the teachers and councilors to evaluate on ther students on how likely they would become school shooters?

How about "How did the Unabomber get into Harvard?" I would be very interested in that report, Mr. Fisher.

Posted by: Gina | April 23, 2007 2:05 PM

I think the parents were relieved to dump him on the university - VaTech is also a victim here. Why didn't the parents get him the help he needed before he went away to college?

Posted by: Appalled | April 23, 2007 2:13 PM

Teacher recommendations and essays are not fool proof ways to determine this; VT does not require these because students know which teachers will emphasize the favorable aspects of the student and essays can easily be written either by or with the aide of teachers, friends, siblings, and parents. It is pathetic to use deceptive means to be accepted by a university, but it is nonetheless a reality. Therefore, VT chooses to place it emphasis on other factors that are more difficult to tailor.

Once again it appears as if the media/nation is still trying to place a portion of the blame on others when the blame rests solely on the shoulders of Cho. He had multiple instances at VT alone to either seek help on his own, and was referred to counseling, end even a mental institution, by faculty and police at Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, it was determined by mental health professionals that he did not need that assistance that we now see that he needed.

Changing the admissions process might weed out a very few others that might be reaching out for help, but largely it will be useless and would certainly not have kept Cho from being admitted.

I realize the intention of this article was not to place blame, but nonetheless we need stop trying to find numerous flaws in VT leadership, police, admissions, and such that do not necessarily exist.

Posted by: Jim | April 23, 2007 2:14 PM

Gina: "How about "How did the Unabomber get into Harvard?" I would be very interested in that report, Mr. Fisher."

good question Gina. How about one on "How did Ted Bundy get into law school?"

Posted by: Loudounian | April 23, 2007 2:14 PM

Fisher: How'd he get into The Washington Post?

If you ban the madmen from universities, you will be banning the geniuses too...colleges benefit from having some pretty loopy characters among their students. My college experience would not be half of what it is without classmates who are just this side of crazy. Don't start enforcing some normality test in college admissions.

Posted by: John | April 23, 2007 2:15 PM

"We haven't seen his grades and scores yet," And you won't be seeing them anytime soon, either. There is a law [FERPA] governing personal academic records and people's right to some shred of PRIVACY in this country, much like those laws protecting medical record privacy. Releasing the murderer's test scores and grades to the media would be as beneficial to the nation's healing process as was releasing his manifesto and photo montage--oh wait, I guess that means it will probably happen momentarily on cnn then, right?

Posted by: marian | April 23, 2007 2:17 PM

I for one would feel a lot better if this had happened at what the author obviously feels is a "lesser school" (e.g., Penn State). Perhaps if Seung had been forced to go to Penn State, the world wouldn't have been so outraged when he shot up the campus. After all, why should we care about those people - it's not like they wrote an essay to get into school or anything, unlike the victims at VT...

Posted by: Jim C | April 23, 2007 2:18 PM


I have to disagree with you. No one is advocating a broad-scale reduction in access to college. The question is whether there's something that can be done to identify the very, very few individuals who are a true threat to others.

Severe mental illness may well not be the only factor behind killing sprees - but it seems pretty clear that it was a factor in this one.

Additional support for mental health services is a great idea, as is making it harder for individuals with a history of serious mental illness to purchase firearms.

None of that makes it illogical, unfounded or ridiculous to ask if there's a way that colleges and universities can identify individuals such as Mr. Cho as potential risk during the admissions process. The answer may turn out to be "no," but the question is not an unreasonable one.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 2:31 PM

This is absurd. The Unibomber got into Harvard and graduated with honors. Oh, and he was white and American.

I had no idea so many bigots read the Washington Post.

Posted by: Lizzie | April 23, 2007 2:32 PM

Marian, you moron, it was NBC that aired Cho's video.

Posted by: diane | April 23, 2007 2:33 PM

"If you ban the madmen from universities, you will be banning the geniuses too...colleges benefit from having some pretty loopy characters among their students."

Again, "loopy" does not necessarily mean "homicidal." I've benifited greatly by knowing "loopy" people - and been accused of being "loopy" myself on occassion.

I'll take a pass on the homicidal, though - as would most others.

Should any screening, whether during the admissions process or in any other setting, be done carefully? Of course - we don't want to commit anyone who's a bit non-conventional. But we shouldn't throw up our hands and refuse to even try to identify individuals as deeply disturbed as Mr. Cho seems to have been out of fear of stiffling the next great American novelist.

Posted by: Demos | April 23, 2007 2:36 PM

"This is absurd. The Unibomber got into Harvard and graduated with honors. Oh, and he was white and American. "

And your point is? We'd like to have identified him earlier too.

It's not that we object to our kids being blown away by a Korean - it's that we object to them being blown away at all!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 2:38 PM

IF ONLY there had been an essay question, he would have come off as a complete lunatic -- probably would have just written that he planned to shoot up the place -- and we could have averted this whole thing!

This is ridiculous.

Marc Fisher = Nancy Grace without the fame.

By the way, I am eating a ham sandwich right now, but I am sure you gleaned that from my above statements. After all, the signs were all there!

Posted by: Tony | April 23, 2007 2:42 PM

So, we should ask questions like "Have you been under psychological care during your high school career" before we admit people? Oh please...

This is a pointless essay written by someone who has no experience with psychological issues, getting their kids into college, or dealing with disabilities.

Posted by: BenAdmin | April 23, 2007 2:46 PM

"The only advantage to being a resident of Virginia is the lower tuition. It has nothing to do with intelligence. The second, being an immigrant, really frosts my shorts because there are thousands of Americans who would love the opportunity to go to college but can't because we're giving everything to immigrants on a silver platter."

Hey dipsh*t.
So as an Asian American you're saying I'm screwing over someone else's right to get into school? I got into Tech 14 years ago, and graduated 10 years ago.

I was denied to other colleges and so did other "Americans" so don't give me this crap about status quo. Silver platter? You are so ignorant. There are tons of other colleges out there to apply to which is why everyone applies so several colleges to see where they get in. A big F U to your ignorant post about immigrants getting things on a platter.

Cho was a nutjob who got in with his grades. How he was able to maintain his grades, nobody knows. UVA required six essays or so at the time which I didn't feel like filling out. I applied to VT instead because it was a bit easier and I got in. I'm sure Cho got in the same way if he got the grades.

But you are an ignorant a**hole for trying to say immigrants are handed things on a silver platter. Did you also mention how much racism and bullying they have to deal with, being immigrants and all? It must be nice to say "Go back to your own country" to an immigrant who came here for a better life trying to live the American dream. Try going to Germany and taking college level mathematical classes there in German and getting 3.5 or higher. I doubt you can do it, because you'd be complaining the whole time. Shut your hole.

Posted by: daveT | April 23, 2007 2:46 PM

In smaller schools its much easier for students to be psychologically screened. Large schools by comparison are incredibly tolerant. As a student with mental health issues I can go to the hospital whenever I need to and still be allowed to take classes.

At the University of Chicago, a medium sized school, I had to leave for OVER A YEAR after my first hospitalization. This is is after I wasn't even suicidal or threatening anyone.

I was flabergasted by Seung-Hui Cho's case because if he went to a school with an active Dean of Students he would have been expelled or at least made to go on leave for at least a year. He was obviously psychotic and in need of help...

Posted by: michelle | April 23, 2007 2:46 PM

I think when a tragedy of this magnitude happens, and no one has the answer, they try to find someone to blame. This has nothing to do with him being an immigrant (might I point out he was a legal immigrant, parents paying taxes, he had a right to an education like everyone else). It could have been anyone. The bottom line is, he was a mentally disturbed person who fell through the cracks. No one did anything when it was revealed that he had mental problems. Someone from the school or community should have followed-up with his parents to see that he gets the help that was required. In some culture, they are too embarass to believe a family member is crazy, so they probably didnt even acknowleged his llness.

Posted by: jahgirl | April 23, 2007 2:52 PM

I never talked in high school because I was shy, not because I was or am homicidal, and I graduated from VT and am now a functioning member of society ... so not talking in class isnt really a big deal is it?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 2:55 PM

I do know that asian patients at mental health facilities are incredibly most asian countries there's so much stigma that if someone is mentally ill they lose all their friends and are even ignored by their family.

When I went to a state facility I saw like 2 asian people there. I'm not saying that this is just with asian people, there was only one jewish guy there. At the state facility there were over 200 people..

People tend to be positively biased against asian people because they're usually very obedient to the law. If Seung-Hui Cho were white I think a lot more would have happened. I'm pretty pissed because he got so many second chances and I got none.

I only went to the state facility because a social worker ended up lying about me to get me committed for 6 months when they really had no evidence that I was 'loopy.'

I read one of Seung-Hui Cho's plays and that along with the monumentality of his hatred, should have gotten him locked up for a looonnng time. It wasn't just being creative, the play was incredibly derivative and just bad. Also, I've heard that his poems were even worse. Plus, the cops were called 2 times!!! It was outrageous that he was allowed to stay in VT and only lived in the hospital for 2 days?

I don't know..maybe I should move to Virginia, I'm sure that I'd be declared perfectly normal if I did.(I'm from MN)

Posted by: michelle | April 23, 2007 3:01 PM

Re. the selectivity of VT...VT is a land grant school with a mission very different from the rest of the schools in the system. Land grant schools were set up so that members of the working class can get a practical education, vice something more reserved for the more privileged. As a result, I think VT's admission policies are more looser since they are in the business to educate everybody, not just the middle and upper classes who tend to be more able to get into the more prestegious schools. As a Hokie grad of 2004 from the Dept of Eng, the fact that they let such a broad swath of people in yet have such high quality programs speaks volumes of the quality of education found here.

Posted by: Columbia | April 23, 2007 3:02 PM

There are a lot of bigots on this board. They are too ignorant to see that Cho was just a sick bastard regardless of his status here in the United States. He has lived here on a green card since the age of eight.

It's disturbing to see all the posts saying that immigrants get preferential treatment over others when it comes to school admissions. Do I think every white person is a Jeffrey Dahmer or in the KKK?


But unfortunately there are a bunch of racist knuckleheads that are quick to jump to race or immigrant status and use it to their agenda/argument because well, they are racist. They don't see him as a sick individual regardless of what race, nationality, or status he is. There are tons of people in the country on visas and green cards. The Canadian-French teacher in NC. A cute girl from France studying in Virginia at a local college. Let's kick all these people out too, they're not citizens. Oh wait, they are white so it's okay.

Posted by: daveT | April 23, 2007 3:04 PM

"this article is pointless"???

Quite the contrary - this question is the most pertinent of any that can be asked about this tragedy - aside from, "Where did he get the guns?" and "How was he able to carry this out?"

VT was derelict in ever allowing this sullen, uncommunicative individual admission to the university. What is higher education about if not about opening yourself up to new things, new ideas, and at least showing some glimmer of inclination towards same? Why would you, as an institution of higher learning, ever even WANT to admit someone like this in the first place?

Perhaps this is really about how flawed the admissions process is. I know that if I were the Director of Admissions, and had the opportunity to sit across the table from this sullen, uncommunicative individual, I would have immediately nixed him - no matter what his test scores were. That is what is missing from the admissions process: The wisdom that is gained from face-to-face contact with another human being. Perhaps that is the larger tragedy here - a society that puts so little value on human-human contact, that massacres of fellow students become the ultimate fruit that is harvested from the tree of no human interaction.

Posted by: jeclose | April 23, 2007 3:08 PM

I'm not sure whether to be amused or appalled that so many of you have found, in a tragedy that took the lives of 32 incredibly accomplished and promising individuals, an opportunity to blather on and on about your favorite pet causes (immigration, guns, disabilities, mental ilness). Ok, I'll settle on appalled.

By the way, for those who have made comments about the killer taking the spot of a US citizen at VT, I'd like to point out that a number of his victims were also non-citizens. Think long and hard about your immediate reaction to that, and what it says about you.

Posted by: disgusted | April 23, 2007 3:11 PM

The question is how did Cho get to Roanoke to buy the gun. It's a good 30-45 minutes from Tech. He had no friends. Did he snag a ride from a bulletin board or did he get a cab? Or maybe he did have a friend.

Posted by: daveT | April 23, 2007 3:11 PM

A neighbor had a daughter with (relatively severe) autism. This child was continually promoted to be at "age" grade level even though she could not read and engaged in odd behaviors. At some point a the school decided this child could no longer be mainstreamed. These parents complained mightly how Prince Willam co was failing them - and then (thankfully) moved to Loudon co where "they are putting lots of money into mainstreaming special needs children."

The parents spent a lot a time getting treatment for their daughter - but then couldn't understand why their child simply wasn't ready to be with other children her own age.

You can't force parents to get the proper care for their kids, even if they are willing to admit their kids have a problem.

Posted by: noway | April 23, 2007 3:11 PM

In 1982-83 I applied to VT and JMU. I did not do an essay for either school. I was accepted at both, earned two degrees from Tech, and I haven't murdered anyone yet.

Posted by: VT grad | April 23, 2007 3:12 PM

Mr. Fisher,

Please do your research before writing future essays, I am afraid this one really shows your ignorance.

Colleges and universities are swamped with
applications every year. Their standard is based on a combination of academic (primarily) and extra-curricular activities, as well as an essay, and may include other factors, but certainly not a measurement of a student's mental health.

Colleges and universities are not designed , equipped, or staffed to
determine which of their admissions applicants may be suffering from mental illness. That would take a team of psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and many other professionals that would be not only extremely timely but ridiculously expensive.

Bottom line is that is not the goal of universities and colleges when they are determining who to admit.

Also, depression at the very least (and obviously Cho was way beyond just depression) is quite prevalent in our society today, not just colleges and universities.

Do your research, please.

Posted by: Higher Education | April 23, 2007 3:14 PM

After Columbine, there was much written about how, in very large high schools, kids can fall through huge cracks in the system since no one sees them as individuals. Likewise, there'se almost no opportunity to take part in personality-opening activities since there are so many kids trying for the same number of "slots" (there's only one school play and one soccer team, whether the school has 300 or 3000 pupils).
Now, we've had a graduate of one of these mega-sized high schools go off to a mega-sized college, where, despite the admirable efforts of a few faculty, he didn't get the psychological help he needed.

By contrast: during our daughter's first semester at a small college (one of the US News top 5...and this may be relevant) she got an email from her teacher (a full professor, NOT a teaching assistant) who asked, "MS X, is there something wrong? You haven't contributed anything meaningful to our class discussions this week."

Posted by: hf | April 23, 2007 3:18 PM

I think the author makes very good points about how predators, sociopaths and ticking time bombs like Cho can fly under the radar. Allowing computers to run an individual's numbers (GPA, SAT scores) to decide if that person is worthy of an acceptance letter is a sign of a school that has no interest in its students. To truly diversify and filter out the unworthy in the college application process and keep higher education a priviledge (NOT a right), more steps including sit down interviews should occur. Of course this may mean more people on the payroll and like most large companies - scaling back profits is a tough call. It would have seemed to me that when Cho's writings were brought to administration he could have been suspended from the school for academic deficiency alone. That didn't happen yet should have.

Posted by: Ron J | April 23, 2007 3:19 PM

This is sick. One message to all you white boyz.....I think it speaks badly about you guys, not being able to get admitted to VT, when a mentally imbalanced asian kid like Cho can make it there. If he was mentally fit, he'd probably have gone to a better school like Princeton, where his sister went.....and I really have nothing to say about the black students. To them VT is equavalent to Princeton. They think it's really a big deal if anyone among their extended family even make it to college, let alone a accredited one. Another reason a black kid couldn't carry out a mass killing like Cho would be because the black kid would first want to rape Emily Hirsher, and then get caught and get sent to jail for 20 years, and not make it to Norris Hall to kill all those students and teachers. He'd probably wasted the money needed to buy guns on crack.

Posted by: Joe Nash | April 23, 2007 3:20 PM

Wow, some bitter, angry little people with some sort of agenda against Fisher commenting today. Lots of pointless comments that don't respond to the substance of what was written.

I didn't read Fisher's question "How did he get in?" as an attack at all on Va. Tech. I've been wondering the same thing myself, since Tech is a good school--how did this guy slip through the cracks? Don't they interview prospective students? (I assumed every selective school interviewed, probably because I applied only to liberal arts schools where an interview was mandatory.) I found the column very informative.

Posted by: NYC | April 23, 2007 3:20 PM

The "Hokie Grad of 2004 from the Dep of Eng" defends the "more looser" admissions policies of Virginia Tech and says that they speak "volumes of the quality of education found here." Heh heh heh. This post says plenty about the quality of the writing of Tech English majors.

Posted by: ohmy | April 23, 2007 3:21 PM

Every campus, worldwide, has its Cho's. No admissions questionaire is going to reveal any applicants mental quirks, that he/she brings or acquires when attending school. The majority of radical groups that terrorized society came from within the campus. Basically indoctrinated by their radical professors. Remember Abbie Hoffman, Patti Hearst, ad nauseum? So colleges, with their frats, groupies and uni-bomber professors are part and parcel of the Cho saga. Period

Posted by: bojangles | April 23, 2007 3:25 PM

Eh, the largest school in Virginia is my high school!! Geez, who cares which university is the largest? Does that really matter?

Regarding comment above about immigrants taking up spots which a U.S. citizen could occupy. Get a grip, he was basically a U.S. citizen having grown up here since he was 8 years old. Just because he was a nut and lazy in becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen you're gonna accuse him of taking up a U.S. citizen's spot at Tech? Give me a break.

I wasn't born here but I've grown up here since I was 7 and have been here for 30+ years. Am a naturalized U.S. citizen so I guess I'm an immigrant taking up a U.S. citizen's job too? Get a life!

Posted by: anonymous | April 23, 2007 3:26 PM

Joe Nash, your comment above does a grave disservice to the millions of black students over the years who have gone to school, kept their nose clean, worked hard and became especially productive members of society. Who knows, you may have worked for one or two in the past.

You really need to check yourself.

Look at the victims -- citizens and international, black, white, Latino -- no colors, just people. To hypothesize like you just did is simply stupid.

I hope others on this thread put you on BLAST like I just did.

Posted by: dirrtysw | April 23, 2007 3:28 PM

I agree with the poster who said that the comments are more insightful than the actual article. Who cares that Tech has no essay requirement? Does Fisher actually think that the admissions policy actually had anything to do with the tragedy? Give me a break.

Posted by: joemomma3 | April 23, 2007 3:29 PM

How did Cho remain an English major when he wrote so poorly? Skip the subject matter, he was a lousy writer. Va Tech admitted the guy and since it is a state school that means some of my taxes fund it. As soon as we heard about the engineering building, we thought the perp was a failed engineer. Even if he was not a mass murderer, no one should be paying for him to sit at Va Tech in private classes with Roy when he is not even qualified to be there. He started out as an engineer. He was the ideal FCPS student - sat there and did his homework. He had the typical math and science activites and even got to write trombone on his resume. FCPS is more about following the rules and has a lot of process oriented rather than content based grading rubrics. In the GT world aspired to by many, going to Va Tech is a come down from UVA.

Posted by: resource allocation | April 23, 2007 3:31 PM

A better question: why does The Washington Post hire such sucky journalists?

Posted by: Katie | April 23, 2007 3:33 PM

Mr. Fisher's article has no merit. How much more Monday-morning quarterbacking do we need to do before accepting the reality?
To blame Virginia Tech for accepting his admission lead to this murderous rampage?
I expect better insight and writing from a prestigious publication like the Washington Post.
What difference does it make where he carried out this tragedy?
If it wasn't VT, it would've been somewhere else. VT is free from negligence in this case from beginning to end, so quit trying to use any platform to place blame for what happened. There's a kid somewhere out there right now who is fantasizing of doing the same thing. He could be your neighbor, your classmate, or a family member. He didn't just wake up one day and snapped. It's much more methodical process and unfortunately, we lost a lot of innocent lives.
Trust me when I say that Cho earning good grades in school was his saving grace. In high school, if you're an amazing athlete or if you're an academic achiever, I believe (in fact, I know) that you get a pass on lots of shortcomings. Including mental instability. If Cho earned mediocre grades, they would've put him in an alternative school. But since he earned high marks, he was considered normal.
It doesn't matter if he would've never attended VT. All that would mean that there would be 32 other victims somewhere else.

Posted by: dubes | April 23, 2007 3:39 PM

I can't believe that there is so much ignorance in the world today about the way mental illness manifests itself in the human mind. Cho wasn't mentally retarded--he had a form of paranoid schizophrenia, the victims of which are among the highest functioning and most intelligent schizophrenics. A typical course of this disease is few clues early on in development, many of which are ambiguous, to be followed by an extreme episode of psychotic breakdown in the 18-24 year age range. It is not unusual for them to excel academically or in the workplace at all, or at various points be able to fake their relative "normalcy". As a matter of fact, most seem like they are just very eccentric or creative people when they are not actively experiencing the worst episodes of their disease. Of course he could have gotten into a college or university, you idiot.

Posted by: Annabelle | April 23, 2007 3:40 PM

Maybe the author was a grad of the VT English Dept? DOH.

Posted by: SiNICK | April 23, 2007 3:41 PM

Mental disability -- there are many students like Cho (who had autism) admitted into college. Students with so-called learning diability are admitted into public universities. When they fail, they may develop grievance against the university. However, Cho's grievance, and that of Columbine HS killers, have been against fellow students.

When they decide to take action, what can stop them? Amrican seems to have no way preventing this kind of tragedy.

Chos and Klebolds and Harrises, who get picked and alienated by bullies and other students, are everywhere in the world. However in other countries, even if they want to commit the atrocities, they have no weapon and can not get the guns.

Here, it is so easy to get the weapons of mass killing, if they want to stop their and others lives. Guns are everywhere.

Posted by: Chris C. | April 23, 2007 3:42 PM

One thing that I have had trouble working out is that ITT was recently fined millions of dollars for sending technology information to subcontractors in other countries. This was a breach of national security. At the same time, we allow students from all over the world attend our top technology schools (like VT) and then return home with the knowledge of our technology. I know exchange students add to the overall college experience, but I do question the wisdom of educating students from coutries such a China in our engineering and technology practices. In a way it seems as if we're providing other superpowers with information that could be used against us. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Posted by: Dude | April 23, 2007 3:43 PM


Marc's real goal here is to keep all of you fine folks looking at advertisements on the Washington Post. Great job Marc. In this respect, the content of your article has value only to the extent that it provokes readers to respond. Whether it adds value to the dialog on this VT Tragedy is not that important to the folks that run this online advertising medium. If that were the point, the content of Marc's article would be entirely different and more meaningful to the national dialog.

As I said, great Job Marc. That's one for the bean counters, share holders and
Microsoft which incidentally holds some of the ad space for this page today. You've really put one over on us genuinely concerned citizens.

I have to get back to the Microsoft Advertisement I clicked on and then read through the Greater Washington Initiative Link and the Care First Blue Cross Blueshield stuff...and then...well, you get the point.


The Big Picture...."Ad Profits".

Posted by: The Big Picture... | April 23, 2007 3:47 PM

Focusing on the admissions process seems misguided. In fact, standardized test scores are good predictors of how well students will do in college. Interviews are chiefly a means of assessing how socially adept people are. That's nice to know, but it's not clear that it should be considered in the admissions process.

To me, the narrative that makes most sense is a set of parents who were neither well integrated into our culture nor at ease in the Korean immigrant culture, perhaps because they were not as economically successful as some and perhaps they had a son whose behavior was obviously "off". They likely found it difficult to understand his behavior and had little idea of what to do about it. In the past few days, we've heard an enormous amount of nonsense about mental illness from people who should know better. That Cho's parents were not more sophisticated--or could not be more open--about this issue is hardly surprising. In this discussion, BJ, whose child has behavior problems, comes closest to noting how difficult it is to deal with mental illness, even when there is adequate support. Severe mental illness (Cho was most likely schizophrenic) is a very tough problem.

I do believe there were missed opportunities in this situation, most obviously when Cho was involuntarily committed but offered only outpatient counseling w/ no requirement that he attend. But that problem could have been resolved by addressing the shortcomings of the particular process designed to deal with potentially dangerous individuals rather than by investing resources in a process that is unlikely to detect individuals likely to become violent.

In other forums, Marc has advocated developing a culture in which we "touch" each other more--that is, one in which people notice what goes on and communicate about what they know. I think that approach is likely to provide more benefit--in all kinds of ways--than tinkering w/ college admissions processes. On this topic, BJ, again, has made the most eloquent statement in saying:

Perhaps the strong strain of individualism in the US needs to give away a bit to a collectivism that means we wall need to play a role in the lives of those around us. Perhaps if the American community spirit was alive and well, then the mentally ill, the financially stressed, the overburdened among us would have friends and relatives--and community services--to help us all succeed and survive.

Hooray for BJ! And best wishes as you try to help your son.

Posted by: THS | April 23, 2007 3:49 PM

Many many schools have optional essays.. should they require an essay?, is it even neccessary? Let's just assume Va Tech (and other schools) had all the resources possible would it make sense to "require" an essay? NO! For an engineering/math/comp sci applicant, what's the purpose of an essay?? there is none. These majors require a bare minimum of writing courses, so why make an essay a key part of admission? Schools do not require an "English or business major" applicant to perform calculus 3 equations. Writing an essay, has nothing to do with being a great college engineering student.

How about a teacher recommendation? Everyone knows they are all bogus. Imagine a teacher's recommendation for this crazy lunatic.. imagine having to write his recommendation letter... Students were afraid of going to his class, imagine how afraid a teacher would be writing his recommendation.

Posted by: rick | April 23, 2007 3:50 PM

Fisher is trying to assign blame. If that is the case he picks on the wrong entity. Cho's parents are clearly to balme for allowing a mentaly ill person to go through life without any treatment. Their assumption was that, if he gets good grades he must be OK. Getting good grades does not mean that you can not be crazy. Conversley getting poor grades does not mean that you can not be crazy (look at George W. Bush). Crazy is crazy. When someone is crazy and parents are raising the someone it is their reponsibility to attend to the child. His parents abdicated their responsibility and were a contributing factor in getting 32 people killed last week.

Yes, the son pulled the trigger. But the parents were also involved for not getting him treatment when he was 9 or 10 years old. A specialist would have let his parents know that he was unstable and anti social and that he could become violent. His parents witnessed his violence when he beat up his older sister on a regular basis.

The parents are to blame. Not Virginia Tech. Not the Tech admissions process and policies. Not his sister. Not the Tech Police force. Not the gun makers/dealers. Not the judge that reviewed his case. Not the Tech professors.

The parents are to balme. If blame is the name of the game for Fisher.

Posted by: Chuck | April 23, 2007 3:54 PM

imagine how much difference speech therapy in elementary school and middle school would have made...

Posted by: amazed... | April 23, 2007 3:55 PM

I wish people would get off the issue of "speaking in class".
You can't tell me that there were not a few shy folks that you went to school with who didn't say a word in your class and still passed. Who knows?
He probably spoke only when the teacher asked. My point is that it's not impossible to pass on to the next grade by being quiet regardless of your major. Every class has a severe introvert among their ranks. Doesn't make them a killer.
The Columbine killers were not only actively participating in their classes, they were also far from being loners. What excuse will you come up with them?
There is no exact science to study the profile of a murderer.

Posted by: dubes | April 23, 2007 3:57 PM

Cho presents very differently from high functioning people on the autism spectrum. They have little capacity for subterfuge and will talk. This guy had an imaginary girlfriend which has absolutely nothing to do with autism spectrum. What is this - when all else fails blame it on autism? His mother wished he had gotten into Princeton instead of the sister - the sister did not mention his very existence to her peers at school - the father never talked abut him. Was he in a GT center for elementary and middle school in FCPS? Was the sister? Did she get into TJHSST? The pressure to get into that stuff is extreme in some communities. They even get test prep for Cogats and Naglieris. If she was admitted to that stuff and not him, the family recriminations on him must have started really young. Maybe he was not going to graduate...what were his grades? Flunking out?

Posted by: resource allocation | April 23, 2007 4:08 PM

Everyone is so obsessed with what we could have done to prevent this. It's worth a good overview to see if Cho could have been apprehended/helped/arrested/committed at some point. But it doesn't look like, without becoming a serious police state, our system could have been thwarted Cho. Insane men and women are hard to control. They are going to go on their rampages from time to time. Grieve, and move on.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 4:13 PM

If VT is completely "free from negligence" as "dubes" has stated, then let's just see how much the school pays out to settle the 32 wrongful death civil suits that are only right around the corner. You forget the stages of human grief and the role "anger" plays - especially in using the law to play that emotion out.

Posted by: Ron J | April 23, 2007 4:14 PM

Why is everyone trying to analyze him, We do not know what any one person is thinking at that time or what that person is capable of. What makes a person snap who knows. but please stop making him the victim. if he was being teased, he should have let someone know or talked to his family. He has siblings, so he could have talked to one of them. I wish people knew when to say enough is enough, let the real victims REST IN PEACE and let their families get past this. So please stop talking about this person as if he was a hero. He was a monster and he does not need any more recognition from anyone.

Posted by: Tanika | April 23, 2007 4:15 PM

It takes money to raise the standard of mental health care. Sadly we have to look at how much money do we want to spend on this issue as a nation. Heart problems, cancers kill millions, so we spend a few billion dollars. After the news headlines are gone, if statistically school shootings kill 33 people per year, you tell me how many millions or billions we are willing to spend to reach a balance between money and safety.

Posted by: Donald | April 23, 2007 4:16 PM

As another reader wrote, I am shocked that so many bigots read The Washington Post.
My thought is that there are probably a lot of new readers that simply hopped on this website to find someone to blame when this case first surfaced, as anyone with any intelligence whatsoever would not be playing the blame game.

This case has brought out a lot of racists that are obviously scapegoating Cho from everything from why their kid didn't get into the college of their choice to why they didn't get the last job they applied for.

You are showing your ignorance.

Cho was an individual with severe mental problems and needed medical and psychiatric help.

Please don't use this as a way to spread your racism and scapegoating. It's obvious by what you are writing about that you are a racist bigot.

That includes you Loudounian.

If you really feel that Cho is the reason for all your shortcomings, then perhaps you should be consistent with your racism.

Don't go to the grocery store to buy produce because chances are good that someone who was an immigrant picked the fruits and vegetables that you are stuffing in your face. You should starve instead. Stand up for your beliefs.

Don't go to the hospital next time you are having a heart attack or any other medical problem because chances are good that the surgeon or doctor that is treating you is an immigrant or of a different ethnic group than your own, or works with such people. (by the way, unless you are
Native American, you are also an immigrant)

Don't frequent any businesses in your town such as nail salons, restaurants, or convenience stores because chances are good that the person that owns that establishment is of an ethnic group other than your own.

Next time you go to the store and buy a product, when you bring it home and it says MADE IN CHINA or any other country other than your own motherland, bring it back to the store and get it refunded- you don't want to have anything to do with those people. Oh by the way this includes clothing, electronics, appliances, toys, and just about every other thing in the store.

Do you get my point? We are all connected. Stop blaming your problems on a convenient scapegoat, Asian or otherwise.

As other readers mentioned as well, you didn't see people pointing the finger
at white folks when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building. What about all those serial killers that are white? Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Gacy, BTK,
probably the Zodiak Killer, etc., the list is endless.

Am I sounding completely ridiculous here?
That's the point. Just because one person of an ethnic group does something horrific and insane, it doesn't mean the entire group/race/ethnicity is to blame.

Posted by: Bigots leave the board | April 23, 2007 4:17 PM

Marc, I have no ties to Virginia Tech, but if the school had strengthened its admissions process as you suggest, so what? Cho could have just as easily snapped at Northern Virginia Community College, or at a shopping mall, or lots of other places. He was alienated and delusional. Keeping him out of Tech wouldn't have cured his mental illness.

Posted by: Kevin | April 23, 2007 4:18 PM

Personally, I think Marc's question is a valid one, and I don't think it's "blaming Virginia Tech" to ask it. I also don't get all the vitriol. Why are people so rude on the internet? Really, people if you think Marc Fisher is a moron, racist, dis*&^, etc., why are you wasting your time?

It is not impossible to believe BOTH that Cho is 100% responsible for his actions AND that colleges, even big ones, could do a better job of looking at the entire applicant, not just his scores.

Posted by: Anne in DC | April 23, 2007 4:21 PM

1) How is the South Korean community to blame for anything? That is like saying the neighbors of the Columbine killers were to blame.

2) I am a second generation immigrant on my father's side and have a family that dates back for hundreds of years in the US on the other. What does this matter? I am proud the the best and the brightest come to America for a better opportunity in life, however, the only thing that matters is what we do with OUR OWN lives - not what great granddaddy did 100 years ago.
Thinking you are entitled to things only because of your ancestry is the thinking of facists.

3) Virginia Tech is a wonderful university that would probably do well to increase their screening - but only to pick out those with more impressive extracurricular activities. Even at the most selective universities, interviews are the most part optional, and Cho would have come off as another quiet nerdy kid.

4) I wish the general public would stop trying to assign blame. We need to work on how to make this never happen again, and for me that starts with not being able to sell guns to unstable people.

5) It sickens me that somehow the fact he is Korean keeps on getting mentioned. There are crazy horrible people everywhere in the world. This one happened to be born in Korea.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 4:23 PM

I don't think he's paranoid schizophrenic at all, almost all PAs are perfectly harmless individuals who occasionally worry about conspiracy theories but are on the whole functional. Cho was practically autistic, even when called on he deferred to answer. What do you do with a student who won't answer even when called on?

Also, I prefer to think that he's psychotic in the psycho sense because he completely legitimated his killings, feeling no remorse and shooting away like Rambo. Most psychologists avoid that classification, is that even a classification? But in his case psychotic and dangerous fits.

He wasn't just shy, he was extremely hostile and refused all friendly advances.(according to media accounts, there were more than a few)

I agree that his parents are partly to blame. A child who has no friends no matter how smart he is needs intensive counseling. If he got into a behavioral management program sooner the entire tragedy might have been avoided.

Posted by: michelle | April 23, 2007 4:24 PM

Low self-esteem as a result of cultural pressures, both home culture and school culture, pushed him through the cracks in an underfunded mental care system. His psychosis was nutured by an society that glorifies and fetishizes violence.

But, I agree, perhaps the posting here was just pandering for more $/click.

Posted by: SiNICK | April 23, 2007 4:28 PM

1250 is not 'midrange' on the SAT, 1000 is 'midrange' on the SAT. Beyond the stupidty of the article itself, that's an uncalled for and untruthful insult to the school

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 4:38 PM

Michelle, honey, you're off-base in your diagnoses and your use of terminology that relates to mental illnesses. "Psychotic" is not an illness. It's a description of a mental state that reflects illness.

Posted by: Psych PhD | April 23, 2007 4:50 PM

I'm with SIGH!

Posted by: dmchale | April 23, 2007 4:53 PM

To all the immigrant bashers and the people who wonder why we admit them, Albert Einstein was an immigrant !!!!!

Posted by: Val | April 23, 2007 4:53 PM

I have been wondering how Cho could have remained in VT when he failed to participate in classes, apparently wrote violent gibberish in his assignments and exhibited dangerous personality defects. Could it be that VT was afraid of being accused of racial discrimination if they ejected him? Is it also possible that he was admitted under a hidden quota system which gives priority to non-white applicants? Only in the U.S. would an alien be given priority over a citizen and in this case it was a deadly choice.

Posted by: Earle | April 23, 2007 4:55 PM

"Am I sounding completely ridiculous here?"

Ummm, yup. You're batty as a loon.

Very, very, very few people, on this board or elsewhere, have blamed Korean-Americans or Koreans for the actions of this one killer. Get your panties unbunched and understand that EVERY aspect of this kid's life is relevant, including the fact that he was Korean.

I, for one, would like to know more about why Tech let this person continue in school, let alone why they let him in to begin with. It seems that the university ignored every opportunity to deal with the problem before he went nuts.

My heart breaks for all those families. That doesn't mean I can't criticize Virginia Tech. I've always had a very high opinion of the school, but what I've learned about their admissions process leads me to reconsider.

Posted by: dsbaf | April 23, 2007 4:56 PM

Tech Triumph (dedicated to the great Hokie family and my dad a member of the 1944 VPI Cadet Corp!)
Maddux and Eppes

Techmen, we're Techmen, with spirit true and faithful,
Backing up our teams with hopes undying;
Techmen, Oh, Techmen, we're out to win today,
Showing pep and life with which we're trying;
V.P., old V.P., you know our hearts are with you
In our luck which never seems to die;
Win or lose, we'll greet you with a glad returning,
You're the pride of V.P.I.


Just watch our men so big and active
Support the Orange and Maroon. Let's go Techs.
We know our ends and backs are stronger,
With winning hopes, we fear defeat no longer.
To see our team plow through the line, boys.
Determined now to win or die:
So give a Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi,
Rae, Ri, old V.P.I.

Second Verse (seldom used)

Fight, men, oh, fight, men, we're going to be the champions
Adding to our list another victory;
Football or baseball, the games in which we star,
They're the sports which made old VP famous.
Hold'em, just hold'em, you know the Corps' behind you
Watching every movement that you make.
Winning games was nothing for our teams before you --
Keep the "rep" for VP's sake.

Posted by: ram | April 23, 2007 5:00 PM

If I were writing up a list of the things that could have been done differently in this case, the VT admissions process would probably fall at number 1,000 (or even lower)... To imply that 32 people were murdered because of lack of an essay or references is laughable when issues such as mental health services and gun control loom so large in this case.

I attended university in Canada (Ontario) and at the time that province used a common application process -- to my knowledge it still does today. Only one of the three universities asked for an essay, and I suspect that was simply a placebo. I also applied to universities in the UK, and again used a common application - no essays. So, in both countries, admissions were based entirely on grades and test scores. The last time I checked, neither Canada nor the UK had problems with mass murder on their university campuses.

To jump to the conclusion that this is an admissions problem (even in small part) is deliberately avoiding the obvious.

Posted by: Huh? | April 23, 2007 5:01 PM

I applaud all the VT community members for their grace and spirit during this horrific ordeal. Watching the news, I was very impressed with how you have all handled this trajedy with such dignity. Please continue on that journey of healing.

One message to those so-called "I am more American than you" hatemongers: STOP!!! NOW! It is this kind of hatred, racism and evil words that may have tipped this kid into actually carrying out an unfathomable deed. Despite his mental illness...How would you like to be made fun of and bullied all the time?

As another blogger wrote: admissions criteria of "First Generation" means whether the student is the FIRST PERSON IN THIER FAMILY to ATTEND COLLEGE. It does NOT MEAN First-Generation Immigrant status! So, it would help for those hatemongers to read before they open their mouth. And, STOP relating immigration policy to this incident as they're unrelated, mutually exclusive topics.

Cho was a mass murderer first and last. Whether he was officially American or not is not relevant at this point. We live in a global village where technology allows us to be wired across nations, cultures, and distance. Next generation may even bring us closer to other planets outside of earth through space travels. To be so painfully myopic and small to even think about a color of someone's skin during this painful mourning period just indicates how there's still a segment of this American society that harbors perhaps even greater hatred towards human race than that of the deranged madman...the only difference might be that this madman happened to carry out his acts but never expressed those feelings in public opposed to some people who don't carry out those acts but express in public those same exact feelings of hatred. Then, what makes these people different from the madman? Only that they express them in public blogs and claim they're "more American" because of citizenship classification?

If your son or daughter didn't get into VT, get over it. There're other things in life that may or may not be fair that are bigger than whether your kid gets into this school or that. This is NOT the time to manipulate your pathetic remorse in such forum...especially as ADULTS, you should show a better example to younger generation who are reading these blogs.

And, remember that this nation was built on the founding fathers themselves were. One should not persecute others so that one could feel superior just because their forefathers only happened to arrive a generation or two or three earlier...that's just counting beans.

Posted by: VT supporter | April 23, 2007 5:02 PM

I would like to point out that not only is Marc Fisher an embarrassment, but so is the Washington Post. When the Virginia Tech SGA asked the media to leave the campus, the authors of an article wrote "Virginia Tech's student government issued a statement this weekend asking the international media hordes who had descended on the scenic campus to leave. But reporters -- including three from The Washington Post -- remained in place, and campus officials held a question-and-answer session for news organizations, and pool interviews with faculty and students, on Monday afternoon."

What reaction are we supposed to have to that? Please leave our community and let us heal. Please stop focusing on an admissions process you know nothing about. And get over which school in Virginia is the biggest, because that is the real tragedy......

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 5:02 PM

"Writing an essay, has nothing to do with being a great college engineering student."

And you obviously didn't have to write many, did you? The smart engineers I know are able to express themselves with the written word -- above the 8th grade level. Too bad you can't.

Posted by: Todd | April 23, 2007 5:03 PM

This is such a dumb and pointless article. The Unibomber Ted Kosinski went to Harvard. I doubt that Harvard is second guessing its admissions standards.

Posted by: jules | April 23, 2007 5:06 PM

Even if Cho's family felt at a loss how to deal with their son's psychosocial problems, the schools he attended from 1st grade on up should have done something to help provide mental health services available in the community. He could have and should have been helped in his younger years before his mental disturbances became a terrible tragedy. One of many online resources that parents and teachers can check for signs of mental health problems is SAMHSA. Check out this list at

Posted by: tm | April 23, 2007 5:07 PM

VT is a land grant university with 7 undergraduate colleges within it. Some are more difficult to get into then others, mostly because of differences in the size of space for each degree within the college. Test scores are probably lower, because of the diverse nature of the degrees offered.

Everyone reads this one play and determines his writing skills are bad, because every commenter suddenly is an english major.

If Hemmingway had gone to VT and been in that English department, he would have failed.

Also the school is designed mostly for Virginia high school grads ,which have a much higher acceptance rate then out-of-state and I believe that the number of foreign international students (not Cho) is less than 700 in total. Cho is a legal permanent resident of Virginia, his parents paid Va taxes so I don't want to read anything about his citizenship, he and his parents are permanent resident aliens. As to acceptance rates, please read the chart below:

VT is about where other land grant universities are at with regard to acceptance rates. We accept more than twice as many students than UVA, although only a few thousand more apply. State schools exist to educate state residents and generally have only some requirements of min. grades and scores to get in. UVA and UNC main campus are more selective probably because they get more out of state applications. UNC non main campus accept 70-90% of their applications. Overall, you can't compare rates, because the standards are different from both size, purpose, and state mandates especially for public schools.

source: Data compiled for USA TODAY by the National Association for College Admission Counseling using 2004 data. Blog does not allow for a nicely formatted chart, sorry.

Name "----Applications "----Accepted "------Rate
UVA "-------- 14,824 "------- 5,760 "------- 38.90%
UNC "-------- 17,591 "------- 6,441 "------- 36.60%
MD "---------- 22,292 "------- 11,499 "------- 51.60%
Texas "------ 23,008 "------- 11,788 "------- 51.20%
FLA "--------- 22,458 "------- 11,928 "------- 53.10%
UMich "------ 21,293 "------- 13,304 "------- 62.50%
Georgia "---- 11,813 "------- 8,885 "------- 75.20%
PSU "--------- 31,264 "------- 17,174 "------- 54.90%
MSU "--------- 21,834 "------- 17,343 "------- 79.40%
VT "----------- 17,845 "------- 12,771 "------- 71.60%
Tex AM "---- 17,324 "------- 12,426 "------- 71.70%
Tex Tech "--- 13,323 "------- 8,939 "------- 67.10%
FSU "--------- 22,127 "------- 14,307 "------- 64.70%
GT "------------ 8,568 "------- 6,008 "------- 70.10%
WVU "--------- 10,049 "------- 9,281 "------- 92.40%
VCU "---------- 9,435 "------- 6,993 "------- 74.10%
JMU "---------- 15,056 "------- 9,404 "------- 62.50%
GMU "--------- 10,097 "------- 6,925 "------- 68.60%
ODU "---------- 6,118 "------- 4,428 "------- 72.40%
W&M "--------- 9,606 "------- 3,368 "------- 35.10%

Posted by: Tony | April 23, 2007 5:11 PM

Is it big news that a 25,000+ university has a few loners that are mentally unstable? You're trying to assign blame to anybody but the killer, but what else is new. There is one responsible party and he is the guy who killed 32 people.

Posted by: PW | April 23, 2007 5:11 PM

Making admission decissions based on ethnicity is racist.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 5:15 PM

Like some people said, if he hadn't gone to Tech, he would have snapped somewhere else.

So if you're one of those people who blame the immigrants for your rejection letter to your number one school; just think maybe you didn't do well enough to get in.

Sure certain universities would like to see a more diverse campus. But I don't think they would shut down a 3.8 GPA student with a 1400 SAT score because they were white just to let a non-Caucasian applicant in. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.. Standards got a little higher after Michael Vick put VT on the map, so naturally the standards went up a little bit with the higher demand to get into the school.

Maybe some of the admissions people didn't want a bunch of Screeches walking around campus. Who knows. Who cares. It's a bunch of people deciding who gets in and who doesn't... You're at their mercy. I doubt they have an abacus for each race so they don't go over.

The only people complaining are the spoiled, bitter ones that aren't used to getting their way, so they resort to racism to make themselves feel better. It's easy, sure.

No one lynched any Jamaican communities when Lee Malvo got caught sniping all those people. One person doesn't represent a whole ethnicity. Too bad the ignorant dumbasses out there are too stupid to realize that they're racist for jumping on immigration issue and/or blaming immigrants for their shortcomings.

Seriously if you want to jump on that, I'm going to start a lobbying group to ensure that you must have a certain IQ before having children. I'm sure alot of you wouldn't be born if that was in place.

Posted by: daveT | April 23, 2007 5:24 PM

People need to calm down here.

1) Nobody's blaming the Korean community, so everyone please stop suggesting they are. There are like 2 posters on this board who keep making nativist statements. Ignore them.

2) Stop thinking this is an either-or situation. You can question how Cho was admitted to Virginia Tech and allowed to stay there, without dismissing every other issue on the table. Obviously Cho was the murderer, not the VT admissions department, and nobody's suggesting otherwise. But Fisher addresses a relevant question.

3) The Post is right to continue covering this story. Deal with it. The VT student government is perfectly entitled to ask the media to scale it back, or be respectful, or whatever, but when 33 people are killed in a massacre that's a national news story and the Post has an obligation to cover it. Period.

Posted by: Andy | April 23, 2007 5:30 PM

So now the admissions office is to be held accountable for this tragedy at VA Tech? And to those wondering about Virginia Tech and it's academic standards, I would like to add that I did receive my undergraduate degree at VT with a major in psychology, received my master's degree at William and Mary and my doctorate from Indiana University in counseling psychology. I did my predoctoral internship at a university counseling counter in Washington, DC. I once had a student come in because she wanted some career counseling. After talking with her substantially, turns out she was suicidal. So, what did I have to do? Well, according to law and my supervisor at the time, she had to sign a contract with me that she would not commit suicide. After 4 hours with me, she signed that contract and then about 8 hours later tried to overdose on Tylenol (I think she took about 10). My hands were tied. She signed the contract after all. I thought she should have been hospitalized, but I was told to have her sign the contract and leave it at that. Fortunately, her suicide attempt left her with a pumped stomach, but otherwise intact. I believe she was a junior. I wanted to give this example because the mental health system is subpar in the U.S. and the stigma is definitely still there. And, there are kids in every school who consider suicide and revenge and I don't think that adding an essay to the application process is going to make a difference. Just my two cents...

Posted by: Hokie1993 | April 23, 2007 5:31 PM

The bigger question is how was Cho able to legally purchase a gun? And, oh, by the way, one can buy ammo clips on Ebay.

What a country!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 5:36 PM

"Why does one of Virginia's premier state colleges not spend the marginal extra money it would take to hire a few more admissions officers so that it can use a more probing application and seek teacher recommendations and personal essays to get a fuller picture of the students it is admitting?"

Maybe because VT doesn't even recieve the full funding from the Commonwealth that it should. Nevermind that it is a total bs question. As many have mentioned, a personal statement is no better indicator of deviant behavior than whether a person listens to hard rock music and paints their nails black...Course, the media has to blame someone, so why not the administration of Tech, eh?

Posted by: Hokie05 | April 23, 2007 5:41 PM

Truth is that there is no sure way to insure there won't be some student that might go mental and either take their own life, or worse, the lives of others. However, there is a more certain way than an admissions filter to prevent mass killings. By simply changing the lax gun laws throughout the US that make it so easy for instant purchase of a gun regardless of one's mental soundness.
Some countries would require not only a criminal and mental background check but send a policeman to your home to check on you and insure you are keeping your firearm securely locked up.
Truth is, politicians are not willing to pass any restrictive laws least they offend the NRA. In fact Newt Gingrich has suggested that the better way deal with the problem is for faculty to arm themselves.

Posted by: Ike | April 23, 2007 5:47 PM

When a community asks you to leave don't be proud because you stayed.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 5:52 PM

Fred, one of the NYT articles included this quote:

"From the beginning, he did not talk. Not to other children, not to his own family. Everyone saw this. In Seoul, South Korea, where Seung-Hui Cho grew up, his mother agonized over his sullen, brooding behavior and empty face. Talk, she just wanted him to talk.

"'When I told his mother that he was a good boy, quiet but well behaved, she said she would rather have him respond to her when talked to than be good and meek,' said Kim Yang-Soon, Mr. Cho's 84-year-old great-aunt."

"I'm amazed at how quickly people want to blame people other than the killer. Cho is the only one to deserve 100% blame. Why must there be an excuse for everything?"

I agree!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 8:34 PM

To Chris C

"Mental disability -- there are many students like Cho (who had autism) admitted into college. Students with so-called learning diability are admitted into public universities.

Was Cho diagnosed as autistic? And what do you mean by "so-called learning disability"? Explain for us the leap you're taking from autism to mass murder?

Posted by: Harold | April 23, 2007 8:36 PM

You know, I don't think anyone is blaming the admissions office for letting Cho in. But (a) the fact is that Cho's writing did, in fact, clearly indicate that not all was well, and it might have been nice to know that when deciding whether to admit him, and (b) if 2-3 people (including some teachers) can't speak enthusiastically about you, maybe a college might want to think twice about admitting you. W&M required three recommendations, if I recall correctly, two of them from teachers or guidance counselors. VT isn't to blame for failing to have the same requirement; no one is to blame for this except Cho. But the admissions people might have had an opportunity to protect their students if they had been given a clearer picture of the boy they were admitting.

"Why does one of Virginia's premiere state colleges not spend the marginal extra money it would take to hire a few more admissions officers so that it can use a more probing application and seek teacher recommendations and personal essays to get a fuller picture of the students it is admitting?"

Two answers spring to mind--one being that Mr. Fisher here is probably drastically lowballing the time and money and people it would take to read all the new information for about 20,000 applicants; and the second being that Tech may be trying to keep its numbers high by looking ONLY at the numbers. W&M has the advantage of only admitting about 5,000 students every year, so it can be a little more choosy.

That having been said, I wouldn't send my kids to a college that only cares what scores its students get, and has no interest in what kind of people it's admitting.

Posted by: SP | April 23, 2007 10:05 PM

The way I read it, the great aunt in Korea said that Cho was a "cold and unfriendly " child (i.e. before the age of eight).

If the parents worked at (some reports said "owned"), a dry cleaning shop, would they have been able to afford help for Cho?

I read that he rented a vehicle for about a month and returned it before going to Norris Hall.

His rant (sent to NBC) seemed fairly understandable. Did he receive some speech therapy along the line?

Posted by: AMF | April 24, 2007 12:55 AM

The one good thing that came out of Fisher's column was this blog. Correcting for sensationalist attention seekers, this has been a very enlightening stream of thought--a prime example of the synergetic value of diverse reflection. In the same way that Imus wasn't just about the Rutgers ladies and the bus boycott wasn't just about Rosa Parks, this event has transcended Cho, Va Tech, and those unfortunate souls who lost their lives.
During my first stint at (a large) university, I made straight As on every English assignment I handed in when I could manage to drag myself to class. Unfortunately, I didn't hand in many because I was in my room paralyzed by depression most of the time. No one investigated why a seemingly bright student on academic scholarship attended class sporadically at best. In contrast, one of my cousins who attended a small HBCU claims to have once had an English professor come to her dorm room to inform her that she should strongly consider not missing another day of her class unless she was dead or dying--or something to that effect. Both of our experiences are based in reality. Small institutions often don't have the resources, (read budgets) to deal effectively with special needs, and large institutions that may have the resources often don't have the flexibility or the empathy.
Demos, I agree with you that "certain forms of severe mental illness can make someone a serious danger to society." Likewise, some smokers give off second-hand carcinogens that cause cancer in others; some alcoholics drive drunk and take innocent lives; some gamblers and drug addicts rob others to support their habits; some sexual deviants molest children, and some mentally ill people commit mass murder. Maybe we should round up all of the above and force them (us?) into treatment. Yes, my friend, it is unreasonable to hold academic institutions disproportionately accountable for identifying and requiring appropriate treatment for people who pose potential threats to society. Every one of us is as responsible as we are innocent bystanders. In the same breath, you seem to advocate both involuntary institutionalizing and "destigmatizing and mainstreaming." A cynic might argue that either one renders the other unnecessary.

I disagree with Ron J's assertion that the objective of the admissions process should be to "filter out the unworthy" thereby keeping "higher education a privilege (NOT a right)..." If I may, I think there are a lot of people in our society who are not so keen to share opportunities for advancement and successful living with others they perceive as being different or "less than." They clandestinely long for the good old days when pedigree, net worth, and name dropping were the keys to access. I suspect the reason many of us are so outraged now has as much to do with the who and the where as it does the what, otherwise we'd be flying flags at half mast and holding memorial services every day over what is happening in Iraq, the Sudan, and urban ghettos throughout America.
BJ's insightful comment about individualism versus collectivism was spot on. It reminded me of the South African concept of Ubuntu, loosely translated, "I am because you are." Why can't we wrap our brains around the proposition that the whole is only as sturdy as the sum of its parts (or something like that)? We all benefit from our (global) neighbors' successes just as we all suffer from their weaknesses and failings. Chickens always come home to roost. Sometimes those chicks are illiterate employees, sometimes they are drug-crazed home invaders, and sometimes they are psychotic classmates. Sometimes our concern and intervention will make a difference and sometimes they will not; but let's not stop caring or trying to intervene.

Posted by: Sue | April 24, 2007 8:51 AM


You made some assumptions (Asians may have some quota, etc), then you made a conclusion based on your assumtion (only in America, etc).

Asians actually face reverse discrimination in college admission because there is a cap on how most Asians want to get into colleges. The percentage of Asian college students far exceeds the overall population ratio. If Asian applicants are simply classified as white, it will be a great blessing for Asians.

Posted by: Donald | April 24, 2007 9:03 AM

Peter Odighizuwa failed law school and was stopped by students who took matters into their own hands. That was 5 years ago in Virginia. He is in prison and there are similarities - authorities knew he was violent and authorities knew cho was a stalker.

Posted by: resource allocation | April 24, 2007 9:14 AM

"Demos, I agree with you that "certain forms of severe mental illness can make someone a serious danger to society." Likewise, some smokers give off second-hand carcinogens that cause cancer in others; some alcoholics drive drunk and take innocent lives; some gamblers and drug addicts rob others to support their habits; some sexual deviants molest children, and some mentally ill people commit mass murder. Maybe we should round up all of the above and force them (us?) into treatment. Yes, my friend, it is unreasonable to hold academic institutions disproportionately accountable for identifying and requiring appropriate treatment for people who pose potential threats to society. Every one of us is as responsible as we are innocent bystanders. In the same breath, you seem to advocate both involuntary institutionalizing and "destigmatizing and mainstreaming." A cynic might argue that either one renders the other unnecessary."


I think you're making the wrong comparisons to smoking, drinking etc. We do in fact restrict the freedom of smokers and drinkers in order to protect the people around them. So, for instance, we prohibit smoking in certain public places to avoid the harm second-hand smoke can cause, and we prohibit driving while under the influence of alcohol. We have have public registries for people convicted of sexual crimes. We sometimes require treatment as part of plea agreements for sexual addicts and sexual offenders.

Of course, what we require in each case depends on the nature and severity of the threat presented to the public. You're cheating when you suggest that my comments would lead to involuntary commitment of smokers - the appropriate response to the threat of second-hand smoke is to require non-smoking areas in restaurants, bars, airports, etc. Making it easier to find good programs to help people quit is a fine idea, too - but protecting society doesn't require that we force people to stop smoking.

Unfortunately, designated "non-killing" sections in restaurants and bars won't cut it when we start talking about mass murder. (And yes, I'm being a bit unfair with this comment, to make a point.)

The nature and severity of the threat is very different in the case of someone like Mr. Cho. It is not at all contradictory to support destigmatization, community treatment, and mainstreaming for cases where there is no significant threat to public health and safety, while at the same time suggesting that stronger measures are necessary in the case of those very few very disturbed individuals such as Mr. Cho who have a propensity to violence.

Mainstreaming and involuntary commitment are different responses that are appropriate for different situations. The ability to do one does not make the other unnecessary, except in those instances where early and aggressive treatment can forestall the development of more serious illness that would require commitment. I honestly don't think we know enough about Mr. Cho at this point (and may never know enough, now) to be able to say if early intervention could have changed the course of his life. I'd like to think so, though.

I never suggested, and I don't think Mr. Fisher suggested, that we "hold academic institutions disproportionately accountable" for identifying and treating people like Mr. Cho. We should be asking what all of us can do to prevent another such tragedy. As part of that, it's not unfair to ask what colleges and universities can do. The answer may be "absolutely nothing" - but I sincerely hope not.

I don't hold VT at all responsible for the recent killings. In particular, it sounds as if several professors really tried to reach out and find that boy some help. It didn't work. Without placing blame, we need to see if we can learn something of value. It seems to me that Mr. Fisher has raised a screamingly obvious question: "why was that boy in college rather than in intensive treatment?" How is that question unfair?

Sensitivity, patience, and respect for the dignity of individuals are all very, very important - but there reaches a point where the safety of society may require involuntary treatment. Determining when that point has been reached may be very, very difficult. But do you believe that there are never any cases where it is necessary?

Posted by: Demos | April 24, 2007 9:51 AM

Mr. Fisher addressed the Cho academic qualifications and performance in addition to the murders. Besides stalking and setting a fire should he have been on the roster as an English [or any other subject] at a publically funded university? Why are tax dollars being used at the college level to fund PRIVATE instruction?

Posted by: Resource allocation | April 24, 2007 10:23 AM

Shocking! Why are you implying that the poor crazy kid wasn't smart enough to get into college? Good grief! He may have been disturbed, but he came from a family of hard working self-starters, and he apparently had no disciplinary record before that. You can be smart and crazy at the same time. Please stop doing your "superior dance".

Why couldn't Cho have just cracked? Many college students do. Now, they don't shoot people, but they do have breakdowns, become addicted, drop out, or kill themselves. College is a very stressful time, and adolescence is a time of huge change in hormones and other chemical functions in your body, and delicate minds can't always handle that.

We'll never fully understand why the kid did what he did. Let's leave the dead and move on to care for those still with us. We should work to improve access to mental healthcare nationwide. We should also appreciate that incidents of this nature don't happen more often.

Besides, if VT had sent him home, we'd have seen a massacre at a local mall instead. He was going to do something drastic regardless of where he was.

Posted by: Maritza | April 24, 2007 10:39 AM

jeclose says:

Perhaps this is really about how flawed the admissions process is. I know that if I were the Director of Admissions, and had the opportunity to sit across the table from this sullen, uncommunicative individual, I would have immediately nixed him - no matter what his test scores were.

and I say:

Uh, so the solution is to flush as many people down the toilet at age 17 as we can get away with? You are basically saying that people with certain characteristics shouldn't be admitted to any university, and in our society today, that's condemning them to the bottom of the economic pile. But, hey, if you're uncommunicative when you're 17, you must be worthless. Easy decision.

Posted by: BP Beckley | April 24, 2007 1:47 PM


there's a difference between sullen (103% of teenagers) and homicidal (less than 1%?).

The whole point of this discussion is to say "hey, wouldn't it be a good idea if we could weed out the homicidal maniacs?" Does that mean we're hell-bent on throwing them on the bottom of the economic trash heap? Of course not - treatment in a safe environment where they can't hurt anybody might just work. But bottom line - yes, absolutely, better these few killers be pushed to the back of the line than for dozens to be killed because we were too gutless to deal with the killers.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2007 2:20 PM

I'm talking about the people who get caught in the net who aren't homicidal maniacs. There's probably a lot more of them than there are killers.

Posted by: BP Beckley | April 24, 2007 5:36 PM

Demos is right; for the examples I cited earlier to fit, we have to consider the most extreme of possible outcomes associated with secondhand smoke, drunk driving, and recreational drug use. Similarly, what Cho did was an extreme manifestation of mental illness, and I don't believe it prudent to design ordinary processes such as college admission, around extraordinary events like campus massacres.
Yes there are laws against smoking in certain places, but smokers-at-large aren't denied access to those places; they are required to conform their behavior to what is required or prohibited, and they are not subject to preemptive punitive actions. Along these same lines, we can't have "laws" which limit the rights of law-abiding people with mental illnesses (or loners, introverts, goths, etc.) to attend college.
And who gets to decide what the standard is for criteria like "typical," "conventional," or "acceptable?' Fifty years ago, segregationists' were successfully arguing that the presence of Black kids in White schools put their kids at risk for assault, rape, and disease. Thirty years later, misinformed but well-meaning parents were asserting that the presence of HIV-positive kids in "regular kid school," put their little ones at risk of contracting AIDS? Now the Marc Fishers seem to be extrapolating from the Cho incident that enrollment of mentally ill individuals in tertiary educational institutions places college students at risk of succumbing to mass murder. To answer someone's question of why Cho was in college rather than in intensive treatment, I ask, "Why must the two be mutually exclusive?"
The reality is that Cho ultimately abused his status as a VaTech student to do a horrible thing, and until Cho actually committed his heinous crime, a lot of concerned people's hands were effectively tied. Some way, somehow, people like Cho have to be convinced, before they become psychotic or during their intermittent lucid states, that acknowledgement of their illnesses and compliance with their treatment plans is in their own best interest, because 1) they will be held accountable for their actions regardless of the mental state that precedes them, 2) their own personal freedoms are at stake, and 3) it is possible that they can live relatively normal lives and co-exist peacefully in their communities. De-stigmatization and resource mobilization are key; however, when, close friends, family members, clergy, employers, deans of students, medical professionals, etc. feel strongly that involuntary treatment may be necessary to jumpstart recovery or nurse the individual to lucidity, their pleas for help should not be trivialized or dismissed, and the ensuing process should not be intimidating, demoralizing, or overwhelming.

Posted by: Sue | April 25, 2007 11:42 AM

Comments TO: "Yes there are laws against smoking in certain places, but smokers-at-large aren't denied access to those places":

1) Yes, currently smokers are allowed where smoking is forbidden.

2) It is a serious problem that the smoke soaked in clothes of the smokers is volatile and sitting next to a smoker is a serious health threat.

The allergic reaction of a body to the smoke includes malfunction of the tearducts, extreme fatigueness, severe strain on the back muscles in the upper back, and eventual shutdown of the bain function (within not more than two hours after the affliction). Having no detox, it takes hours and even days to recover.

3) Smoking should be actively banned from common areas including streets.

Smoke tainted clothings should be banned from indoors, especially in high density seating situations which include classrooms, court rooms, theatres, restaurants, libraries, etc.

Posted by: sunatwashingtonpostblog | May 1, 2007 7:20 PM

I wondered about how Cho got into the college.
I wondered if his sister might have written the application essay for him.
I wondered what his writings must have been like. In high school and in college. And, in middle school and elementary.

Statistically speaking, there are not many ``Chos" -- school shooters. They are rare breeds. And, they seem to share a common history: They misfiit and were mistreated in schools.

1. What happens to the growth of an individual when the person can not express him/herself due to ``shyness"?

2. What is ``shyness"? Genetically? And, phenotypically? How many genes have been discovered to be relevant?

3. How is ``shyness" related to an individual's need for her/his own space? Where the needs differ from an individual to an individual. Which is normal?

4. What happens to an individual with an ``extreme communication impediment" but intelligent otherwise during the process of growing -- puberty, maturity, etc?

5. When an individual reaches an absolute limit of hopelessness, what should the individual do? Commit suicide quietly? Or, let it be known as Cho did?

What should the society do? When should it abort the individual from the society? So as not to be massacred in the process of the individual's exit which is not a quiet slitting but a loud bang?

6. Is it possible that Cho's writings that horrified professors and scared students were crying out for attention?

Could he have been saved, and so also the others, by helping Cho through his writings?

Is it possible that Cho might have expected to learn how to find a girl friend like a gentleman -- and so successfully some day -- when he agreed to see a counselor? (I am pretty sure that he had a long long way to go to achieve the goal.)

Considering how uninterested he had been in anyone, it might have been a progress in a sense that he was showing interests in female students. The rude behavior might have been his way of trying. You know kids (and of course adults) who would rather do things in a sneaky way because they are not up to doing in a tasteful manner, don't you?

Then, we could say that it is the``wonder of testoterone" that finally woke up his interest in other humans? The pictures he sent to NBC seem to indicate that he could take off the sunglasses and hat, and smile too. So, in fact, he could have been invited to do just that?

(But, then, who wouldn't freak out at a weired 23-year-old doing freaky things some stupid annoying 12-year old might do? Or, disgusting sleezy pimps?)

Who should have done the job of saving the rare individual? And so the other students?

In fact, this case is so remarkably inconsistent and weired that I am still wondering if I am not hearing about a nightmare.

Posted by: sunatwashingtonpostblog | May 1, 2007 8:41 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company